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COLLEGE  OF  LIBERAL  ARTS. 


Boston  University. 


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From IAIaAJ*.  ..V/A^OCv'Jvw 


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T{eceived      Lt.H 


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ELEMENTARY  SKETCHES 


MORAL  PHILOSOPHY, 


DELIVERED    AT 


THE    ROYAL    INSTITUTION, 


IN    THE    YEARS 


1804,  1805,  and  1806. 


BY    THE    LATE 


REV.   SYDNEY SMITH,   M.A 


COL-LIB-ARTS- 


NEW   YORK: 
HARPER    &    BROTHERS. 


1850. 


Access.  Aprtt  lit,  11  8, <} 


?>  G  6  ^  6 


lc  s-o 


INTRODUCTION. 


These  Lectures  were  privately  printed,  in  the  hope 
that  Mr.  Sydney  Smith's  remaining  friends  would  feel 
some  interest  in  the  occupations  of  his  early  years.  By 
these  partial  judges  they  have  been  very  generally  ap- 
proved. Several  eminent  men  have  counseled  their 
publication ;  but  their  fragmental  and  elementary  state 
seemed  to  forbid  it. 

The  following  letter  from  Lord  Jeffrey  (written  but 
three  days  before  his  sudden  illness,  which  terminated 
fatally)  appears  to  be  so  decisive  of  their  publication, 
that,  under  the  shadow  of  such  authority,  and  with  the 
deepest  feelings  of  gratitude  to  him  for  the  candor  and 
the  affectionate  approval  shown  toward  their  author, 
they  are  no  longer  withheld  from  the  public. 

"  Edinburgh,  January  18th,  1850. 
"  My  ever  dear  Mrs.  Smith, 

"  I  can  not  tell  you  how  grateful  I  am  to  you  for 
having  sent  me  this  book  ;  not  merely  (or  chiefly)  as  a 
proof  of  your  regard,  or  as  a  memorial  of  its  loved  and 
lamented  author*,  but  for  the  great  and  unexpected 
pleasure  I  have  already  derived,  and  feel  sure  I  shall 
continue  to  derive,  from  its  perusal.  Though  it  came 
to  me  in  the  middle  of  my  judicial  avocations,  and  when 


IV  INTRODUCTION, 

my  infirm  health  scarcely  admitted  of  any  avoidable 
application,  I  have  been  tempted,  in  the  course  of  the 
last  two  days,  to  read  more  than  the  half  of  it !  and  find 
it  so  much  more  original,  interesting,  and  instructive 
than  I  had  anticipated,  that  I  can  not  rest  till  I  have  not 
merely  expressed  my  thanks  to  you  for  the  gratification 
I  have  received,  but  made  some  amends  for  the  rash 
and  I  fear  somewhat  ungracious  judgment  I  passed 
upon  it,  after  perusing  a  few  passages  of  the  manuscript, 
some  years  ago.  I  have  not  recognized  any  of  these 
passages  in  any  part  of  the  print  I  am  now  reading,  and 
think  I  must  have  been  unfortunate  in  the  selection,  or 
chance,  by  which  I  was  then  directed  to  them.  But, 
however  that  be,  I  am  now  satisfied  that  in  what  I  then 
said,  /  did  great  and  grievous  injustice  to  the  merit  of 
these  Lectures,  and  was  quite  wrong  in  dissuading  their 
publication,  or  concluding  that  they  would  add  nothing 
to  the  reputation  of  the  author ;  on  the  contrary,  my 
firm  impression  is,  that,  with  few  exceptions,  they  will  do 
him  as  much  credit  as  any  thing  he  ever  wrote,  and  pro- 
duce, on  the  whole,  a  stronger  impression  of  the  force 
and  vivacity  of  his  intellect,  as  well  as  a  truer  and  more 
engaging  view  of  his  character,  than  most  of  what  the 
world  has  yet  seen  of  his  writings.  The  book  seems  to 
me  to  be  full  of  good  sense,  acuteness,  and  right  feeling 
— very  clearly  and  pleasingly  written — and  with  such  an 
admirable  mixture  of  logical  intrepidity,  with  the  ab- 
sence of  all  dogmatism,  as  is  rarely  met  with  in  the  con- 
duct of  such  discussions.  Some  of  the  conclusions 
may  be  questionable  ;  but  I  do  think  them  generally 
just,  and  never  propounded  with  any  thing  like  arrogance 
or  in  any  tone  of  assumption,  and  the  whole  subject 
treated  with  quite  as  much,  either  of  subtilty  or  profund 
ity,  as  was  compatible  with  a  popular  exposition  of  it. 


INTRODUCTION.  V 

"  I  retract  therefore,  peremptorily  and  firmly,  the  ad- 
vice I  formerly  gave  against  the  publication  of  these 
discourses  ;  and  earnestly  recommend  you  to  lose  no 
time  in  letting  the  public  at  large  have  the  pleasure  and 
benefit  of  their  perusal  The  subject,  perhaps,  may 
prevent  them  from  making  any  great  or  immediate  sen- 
sation ;  but  I  feel  that  they  will  excite  considerable  in- 
terest, and  command  universal  respect ;  while  the  pre- 
vious circulation  of  your  100  eleemosynary  copies, 
among  persons  who  probably  include  the  most  authorita- 
tive and  efficient  guides  of  public  taste  and  opinion  now 
living,  must  go  far  to  secure  its  early  and  favorable 
notice. 

"  I  write  this  hurriedly,  after  finishing  my  legal  prepa- 
rations for  to-morrow,  and  feel  that  I  shall  sleep  better 
for  this  disburdening  of  my  conscience.  I  feel,  too,  as 
if  I  was  secure  of  your  acceptance  of  this  tardy  recan- 
tation of  my  former  heresies ;  and  that  you  will  be 
pleased,  and  even  perhaps  a  little  proud,  of  your  conver- 
tite !  But  if  not,  I  can  only  say  that  I  shall  willingly 
submit  to  any  penance  you  can  find  in  your  heart  to 
impose  on  me.  I  know  enough  of  that  heart  of  old,  not 
to  be  very  apprehensive  of  its  severity ;  and  now  good 
night,  and  God  bless  you !  I  am  very  old,  and  have 
many  infirmities ;  but  I  am  tenacious  of  old  friendships, 
and  find  much  of  my  present  enjoyments  in  the  recol- 
lections of  the  past. 

"  With  all  good  and  kind  wishes, 
"  Ever  very  gratefully  and  affectionately  yours, 

"F.  Jeffrey." 


NOTE. 

These  Elementary  Lectures,  on  Moral  (or  Mental)  Philosophy, 
were  delivered  in  the  Royal  Institution  in  the  years  1804-5-6, 
before  a  mixed  audience  of  ladies  and  gentlemen,  upon  a  subject 
very  little  considered  then  in  this  country. 

They  are  scarcely  more  than  an  enumeration  of  those  great 
men  that  have  originated  and  treated  on  this  important  science, 
with  a  short  account  of  their  various  opinions,  and  frequent  com- 
pilations from  their  works. 

Though  Mr.  Sydney  Smith  had  had  the  advantage  of  a  close 
attendance,  for  five  years,  upon  the  beautiful  lectures  delivered  by 
Mr.  Dugald  Stewart  in  the  University  of  Edinburgh,  and  an 
almost  daily  communication  with  him,  and  with  that  remarkable 
man  Dr.  Thomas  Brown,  who  succeeded  Mr.  Stewart  in  the  pro- 
fessor's chair  of  Moral  Philosophy,  yet  these  Lectures,  from  the 
circumstances  under  which  they  were  delivered,  were  necessarily 
very  superficial ;  it  being  impossible  to  fix  the  attention  of  persons 
wholly  unaccustomed  to  such  abstruse  and  difficult  subjects,  with 
any  beneficial  effect,  for  the  prescribed  time  of  the  Lecture. 

Some  portions  of  the  first  course  of  Lectures  were,  a  few 
years  after,  amplified  and  embodied  in  the  "Edinburgh  Review," 
under  the  titles  of  Professional  Education,*  Female  Education, 
and  Public  Schools  ;  and  as  he  considered  what  remained  could 
be  of  no  further  use,  he  destroyed  several,  and  was  proceeding  to 
destroy  the  whole.  An  earnest  entreaty  was  made  that  those 
not  yet  torn  up  might  be  spared,  and  it  was  granted. 

*  These  subjects  were  introduced  in  the  Lectures  on  Memory,  on  Imag- 
ination, and  on  Association. 


Vlll  NOTE. 

These  Lectures  then  (the  first  course  being  rendered  very  im- 
perfect, though  from  the  ninth  they  are  perfect  and  consecutive) 
profess  to  be  nothing  more  than  a  popular  colloquial  sketch  of  a 
very  curious  and  interesting  subject,  written  to  be  spoken.  They 
are  given  in  clear  language,  often  illustrated  by  happy  allusions, 
by  eloquence,  and  by  a  playfulness  of  fancy  that  was  eminently 
his  own. 

Though  very  far  from  a  learned  book,  it  may  prove  perhaps 
an  interesting  one ;  conveying  great  truths,  and  much  useful 
knowledge,  in  a  less  dry  and  repulsive  shape  than  in  a  discussion 
on  Moral  Philosophy  they  are  commonly  to  be  found. 


CONTENTS, 


LECTURE   I. 

Page 
Introductory  Lecture 18 

LECTURE  II. 

History  of  Moral  Philosophy 26 

LECTURE   III. 

History  of  Moral  Philosophy. — Part  2.  {Imperfect)  .         .        .        .42 

LECTURE  IV. 

On  the  Powers  of  External  Perception.     {Imperfect)         .        .        .60 

FRAGMENT  OF  LECTURE   V. 
On  Conception 76 

FRAGMENT  OF   LECTURE   VI. 
On  Memory 83 

FRAGMENT  OF  LECTURE   VII. 
On  Imagination ,         *     89 


X  CONTENTS. 


FRAGMENT  OF   LECTURE   VIII. 

Page 
On  Reason  and  Judgment 93 

LECTURE   IX. 

On  the  Conduct  of  the  Understanding 95 

LECTURE  X. 
On  Wit  and  Humor 112 

LECTURE   XI. 
On  Wit  and  Humor.— Part  2 131 

LECTURE   XII. 
On  Taste 147 

LECTURE   XIII. 
On  the  Beautiful 163 

LECTURE   XIV. 
On  the  Beautiful.— Part  2 177 

LECTURE   XV. 
On  the  Beautiful.— Part  3 193 

LECTURE  XVI. 
On  the  Sublime 208 

LECTURE   XVII. 

On  the  Faculties  of  Animals,  as  compared  with  those  of  Men  .        .  224 

LECTURE   XVHI. 

On  the  Faculties  of  Beasts 239 


CONTENTS.  XI 

LECTURE   XIX. 

Page 
On  the  Conduct  of  the  Understanding. — Part  2  256 

LECTURE  XX. 

On  the  Active  Powers  of  the  Mind 2*73 

LECTURE  XXI. 

On  the  Evil  Affections 288 

LECTURE  XXII. 

On  the  Benevolent  Affections 304 

LECTURE  XXIII. 
On  the  Passions 320 

LECTURE   XXIV. 
On  the  Desires 335 

LECTURE   XXV. 

On  Surprise,  Novelty,  and  Variety 348 

LECTURE  XXVI. 
On  Habit 362 

LECTURE  XXVII. 
On  Habit.— Part  2 311 


LECTURES. 


INTRODUCTORY  LECTURE. 

By  the  term  Moral  Philosophy,  is  popularly  under- 
stood ethical  philosophy  ;  or  that  science  which  teaches 
the  duties  of  life  :  but  Moral  Philosophy,  properly  speak- 
ing, is  contrasted  to  natural  philosophy ;  comprehending 
every  thing  spiritual,  as  that  comprehends  every  thing 
corporeal,  and  constituting  the  most  difficult  and  the 
most  sublime  of  those  two  divisions  under  which  all 
human  knowledge  must  be  arranged. 

In  this  sense,  Moral  Philosophy  is  used  by  Berkeley, 
by  Hartley,  by  Hutches  on,  by  Adam  Smith,  by  Hume, 
by  Reid,  and  by  Stewart.  In  this  sense  it  is  taught  in 
the  Scotch  Universities,  where  alone  it  is  taught  in  this 
island ;  and  in  this  sense  it  comprehends  all  the  intel- 
lectual, active,  and  moral  faculties  of  man ;  the  laws  by 
which  they  are  governed ;  the  limits  by  which  they  are 
controlled  ;  and  the  means  by  which  they  may  be  im- 
proved :  it  aims  at  discovering,  by  the  accurate  analysis 
of  his  spiritual  part,  the  system  of  action  most  agreeable 
to  the  intentions  of  his  Maker,  and  most  conducive  to 
the  happiness  of  man. 

There  is  a  word  of  dire  sound  and  horrible  import 
which  I  would  fain  have  kept  concealed  if  I  possibly 
could  ;  but  as  this  is  not  feasible,  I  shall  even  meet  the 
danger  at  once,  and  get  out  of  it  as  well  as  I  can.  The 
word  to  which  I  allude  is  that  very  tremendous  one  of 
Metaphysics  ;  which,  in  a  lecture  on  Moral  Philosophy, 
seems  likely  to  produce  as  much  alarm  as  the  cry  of  fire 


14  INTRODUCTORY    LECTURE. 

in  a  crowded  play-house,  when  Belvidera  is  left  to  weep 
by  herself,  and  every  one  saves  himself  in  the  best 
manner  he  can.  I  must  beg  my  audience,  however,  to 
sit  quiet,  till  they  hear  what  can  be  said  in  defense  of 
Metaphysics,  and  in  the  mean  time  to  make  use  of  the 
language  which  the  manager  would  probably  adopt  on 
such  an  occasion, — I  can  assure  ladies  and  gentlemen, 
there  is  not  the  smallest  degree  of  danger. 

The  term  Metaphysics  has  no  sort  of  relation  to  its 
meaning  ; — and  various  attempts  have  been  made  to 
substitute  a  more  appropriate  word  in  its  place, — hitherto 
without  success.  Psychology,  and  Pneumatology,  are 
both  candidate  expressions  for  filling  this  vacancy  in  our 
language  ;  but  though  no  objections  can  be  stated  to 
either,  they  have  neither  of  them  fairly  got  into  circula- 
tion (even  among  the  few  who,  by  cultivating  this 
science,  have  acquired  a  right  to  adjust  the  language  in 
which  it  is  taught)  ;  but  by  whatever  name  the  science 
of  the  human  mind  is  signified,  it  has  precisely  the  same 
foundation  in  reality  that  any  science  conversant  with 
the  properties  of  matter  can  have.  The  existence  of 
mind  is  as  much  a  matter  of  fact  as  the  existence  of 
matter :  it  is  as  true  that  men  remember,  as  that  oxygen 
united  to  carbon  makes  carbonic  acid.  I  am  as  sure  that 
anger,  and  affection,  are  principles  of  the  human  mind, 
as  I  am,  that  grubs  make  cockchafers  ;  or  of  any  of  those 
great  truths  which  botanists  teach  of  lettuces  and  cauli- 
flowers. The  same  patient  observation,  and  the  same 
caution  in  inferring,  are  as  necessary  for  the  establish- 
ment of  truth  in  this  science  as  in  any  other :  rash 
hypothesis  misleads  as  much,  modest  diligence  repays  as 
well.  Whatever  has  been  done  for  this  philosophy  has 
been  done  by  the  inductive  method  only ;  and  to  that 
alone,  it  must  look  for  all  the  improvement  of  which  it 
is  capable.  So  that  those  who  would  cast  a  ridicule 
upon  Metaphysics,  or  the  intellectual  part  of  Moral 
Philosophy,  as  if  it  were  vague  and  indefinite  in  its 
object,  must  either  contend  that  we  have  no  faculties  at 
all,  and  that  no  general  facts  are  to  be  observed  con- 
cerning them,  or  they  must  allow  to  this  science  an 
equal  precision  with  that  which  any  other  can  claim. 


INTRODUCTORY    LECTURE.  15 

A  great  deal  of  unpopularity  has  been  incurred  by 
this  science  from  the  extravagances  or  absurdities  of 
those  who  have  been  engaged  in  it.     When  the  mass  of 
mankind  hear  that  all  thought  is  explained  by  vibrations 
and  vibratiuncles  of  the  brain,— that  there  is  no  such 
thing  as  a  material  world,— that  what  mankind  consider 
as  their  arms,  and  legs,  are  not  arms  and  legs,  but  ideas 
accompanied  with  the  notion  of  outness, — that  we  have 
not  only  no  bodies,  but  no  minds  ; — that  we  are  nothing, 
in  short,  but  currents  of  reflection  and  sensation;  all 
this,  I  admit,  is  well  calculated  to  approximate,  in' the 
public  mind,  the  ideas  of  lunacy  and  intellectual  philoso- 
phy.     But  if  it  be  fair  to  argue  against  a  science,  from 
the  bad  method  in  which  it  is  prosecuted,  such  a  mode 
of  reasoning  ought  to  have  influenced  mankind  centuries 
ago  to  have  abandoned  all  the  branches  of  physics,  as 
utterly  hopeless.      I  have  surely  an  equal  right  to  rake 
up   the   moldy   errors   of  all    the   other   sciences ;— to 
reproach  astronomy  with  its  vortices, — chemistry  with 
its   philosopher's    stone,— history    with   its    fables,— law 
with  its  cruelty,  and  ignorance; — and  if  I  were  to  open 
this  battery  against  medicine,  I  do  not  know  where  I 
should  stop.     Zinzis  Khan,  when  he  was  most  crimsoned 
with  blood,  never  slaughtered  the  human  race  as  they 
have  been  slaughtered  by  rash  and  erroneous  theories  of 
medicine. 

If  there  be  a  real  foundation  for  this  science,  if  ob- 
servation can  do  any  thing,  and  has  not  done  all,  there 
is  room  for  hope,  and  reason  for  exertion.  The  extrava- 
gances by  which  it  has  been  disgraced,  ought  to  warn 
us  of  the  difficulty,  without  leading  us  to  despair.  To 
say  there  is  no  path,  because  we  have  often  got  into  the 
wrong  path,  puts  an  end  to  all  other  knowledge  as  well 
as  to  this. 

The  truth  is,  it  fares  worse  with  this  science  than 
with  many  others,  because  its  errors  and  extravagances 
are  comprehended  by  so  many.  If  you  tell  a  man  that 
the  ground  on  which  he  stamps  is  not  ground,  but  an 
idea,  he  naturally  enough  thinks  you  mad.  If  the  same 
person  were  told  that  the  planets  were  rolled  about  in 
whirlpools,  or  that  the  moon,  as  Descartes  thought,  was 


16  INTRODUCTORY    LECTURE. 

once  a  sun, — such  a  person,  who  would  laugh  at  the 
former,  might  hear  these  latter  opinions  advanced,  with- 
out being  struck  with  their  absurdity.  Every  man  is 
not  necessarily  an  astronomer,  but  every  man  has  some 
acquaintance  with  the  operations  of  his  own  mind  ;  and 
you  can  not  deviate  grossly  from  the  truth  on  these  sub- 
jects, without  incurring  his  ridicule,  and  reprehension. 
This  perhaps  is  one  cause  why  errors  of  this  nature  have 
been  somewhat  unduly  magnified. 

Skepticism,  which  is  commonly  laid  to  the  charge  of 
this  philosophy,  may,  in  the  first  place,  be  fairly  said  to 
have  done  its  worst.  Bishop  Berkeley  destroyed  this 
world  in  one  volume  octavo;  and  nothing  remained 
after  his  time,  but  mind ;  which  experienced  a  similar 
fate  from  the  hand  of  Mr.  Hume  in  1737  ;— so  that,  with 
all  the  tendency  to  destroy,  there  remains  nothing  left 
for  destruction  :  but  I  would  fain  ask  if  there  be  any 
one  human  being,  from  the  days  of  Protagoras  the 
Abderite  to  this  present  hour,  who  was  ever  for  a  single 
instant  a  convert  to  these  subtile  and  ingenious  follies  ? 
Is  there  any  one  out  of  Bedlam  who  doubts  of  the  exist- 
ence of  matter  ?  who  doubts  of  his  own  personal 
identity  ?  or  of  his  consciousness  ?  or  of  the  general 
credibility  of  memory  ?  Men  talk  on  such  subjects  from 
ostentation,  or  because  such  wire-drawn  speculations  are 
an  agreeable  exercise  to  them ;  but  they  are  perpetually 
recalled  by  the  necessary  business  and  the  inevitable 
feelings  of  life  to  sound  and  sober  opinions  on  these  sub- 
jects. Errors,  to  be  dangerous,  must  have  a  great  deal 
of  truth  mingled  with  them ;  it  is  only  from  this  alliance 
that  they  can  ever  obtain  an  extensive  circulation  : 
from  pure  extravagance,  and  genuine,  unmingled  false- 
hood, the  world  never  has,  and  never  can  sustain  any 
mischief.  It  is  not  in  our  power  to  believe  all  that  we 
please  ;  our  belief  is  modified  and  restrained  by  the 
nature  of  our  faculties,  and  by  the  constitution  of  the 
objects  by  which  we  are  surrounded.  We  may  believe 
any  thing  for  a  moment,  but  we  shall  soon  be  lashed  out 
of  our  impertinence,  by  hard  and  stubborn  realities.  A 
great  philosopher  may  sit  in  his  study,  and  deny  the 
existence  of  matter ;  but  if  he  take  a  walk  in  the  streets 


INTRODUCTORY    LECTURE.  17 

he  must  take  care  to  leave  his  theory  behind  him.  Pyrrho 
said  there  was  no  such  thing  as  pain  ;  and  he  saw  no 
proof  that  there  were  such  things  as  carts,  and  wagons  ; 
and  he  refused  to  get  out  of  their  way :  but  Pyrrho  had, 
fortunately  for  him,  three  or  four  stout  slaves,  who 
followed  their  master,  without  following  his  doctrine  ; 
and  whenever  they  saw  one  of  these  ideal  machines 
approaching,  took  him  up  by  the  arms  and  legs,  and, 
without  attempting  to  controvert  his  arguments,  put  him 
down  in  a  place  of  safety.  If  you  will  build  an  error 
upon  some  foundation  of  truth,  you  may  effect  your 
object ;  you  may  divert  a  little  rivulet  from  the  great 
stream  of  nature,  and  train  it  cautiously,  and  obliquely, 
away ;  but  if  you  place  yourself  in  the  very  depth  of  her 
almighty  channel,  and  combat  with  her  eternal  streams, 
you  will  be  swept  off  without  ruffling  the  smoothness,  or 
impeding  the  vigor,  of  her  course. 

With  respect  to  skepticism  on  subjects  of  natural  and 
revealed  religion,  I  can  really  see  no  connection  between 
such  species  of  doubts,  and  an  investigation  into  the 
structure  of  the  human  mind.  Thus  much  is  true,  that 
out  of  a  certain  number  of  men  who  exercise  their  un- 
derstanding vigorously,  and  the  same  number  who  do 
not  exercise  it  at  all,  we  shall  have  many  more  dissen- 
tients to  any  thing  established  by  evidence,  among  the 
first  class,  than  the  second.  Among  a  hundred  plough- 
men, we  should  not  find  one  skeptic ;  among  the  same 
number  of  men  of  very  cultivated  faculties,  we  should 
probably  find  some  who  entertained  captious  and  frivo- 
lous doubts  against  religion  ;  but  then  there  is  no  more 
probability  that  this  science  should  produce  such  men, 
than  any  other  science,  which  compels  us  to  a  rigorous 
exercise  of  all  the  powers  of  the  mind  :  the  objection 
seems  to  be  against  exercising  the  faculties  altogether, 
not  against  exercising  them  in  this  particular  manner  ; 
but  surely  it  is  a  sad  way  to  cure  the  excesses  of  the 
human  mind,  by  benumbing  it ;  and  a  very  narrow  view 
of  the  resources  of  art,  to  suppose  there  is  no  other 
remedy  for  the  irregular  action  of  any  part,  than  by  its 
destruction.  I  might  do  here  what  I  have  done  before 
in  speaking  of  the  extravagance  of  some  reasoners  upon 


18  INTRODUCTORY    LECTURE. 

these  subjects,— institute  a  parallel  between  the  tendency 
to  religious  skepticism,  produced  by  this  science,  and 
many  others  ;  a  much  wiser  and  better  man  than  I, 
however,  shall  do  it  for  me.  In  speaking  of  the  decline 
of  materialism,  Mr.  Dugald  Stewart  says  :*  "  There  has 
certainly  been,  since  the  time  of  Descartes,  a  continual, 
and,  on  the  whole,  a  very  remarkable  approach  to  the 
inductive  plan  of  studying  human  nature.  We  may 
trace  this  in  the  writings  even  of  those  who  profess  to 
consider  thought  merely  as  an  agitation  of  the  brain. 
In  the  writings  of  Helvetius  and  of  Hume,  both  of  whom, 
although  they  may  occasionally  have  expressed  them- 
selves in  an  unguarded  manner  concerning  the  nature 
of  mind,  have,  in  their  most  useful  and  practical  disquisi- 
tions, been  prevented,  by  their  own  good  sense,  from 
blending  any  theory  with  respect  to  the  causes  of  the 
intellectual  phenomena  with  the  history  of  facts,  or  the 
investigation  of  general  laws.  The  authors  who  form 
the  most  conspicuous  exceptions  to  this  gradual  progress, 
consist  chiefly  of  men  whose  errors  may  be  easily  ac- 
counted for,  by  the  prejudices  connected  with  their 
circumscribed  habits  of  observation  and  inquiry; — of 
physiologists,  accustomed  to  attend  to  that  part  alone  of 
the  human  frame  which  the  knife  of  the  anatomist  can 
lay  open ; — or  of  chemists,  who  enter  on  the  analysis  of 
thought,  fresh  from  the  decompositions  of  the  laboratory; 
carrying  into  the  theory  of  mind  itself  (what  Bacon  ex- 
pressively calls)  the  smoke  and  tarnish  of  the  furnace." 
But  what  are  we  to  do  ?  If  the  enemies  of  religion  de- 
rive subtilty  and  acuteness  from  this  pursuit,  ought  not 
their  own  weapons  to  be  turned  against  them  ?  and 
ought  not  some  to  study  for  defense,  if  others  do  for  the 
purposes  of  aggression  ?  When  the  old  anarch  Hobbes 
came  out  to  destroy  the  foundations  of  morals,  who  en- 
tered the  lists  against  him  ?  Not  a  man  afraid  of  meta- 
physics, not  a  man  who  had  become  skeptical  as  he  had 
become  learned,  but  Ralph  Cudworth,  Doctor  of  Divinity 
— a  man  who  had  learned  much  from  reading  the  errors 
of  the  human  mind,  and  from  deep  meditation  its  nature : 

*  Life  of  Reid,  p.  81.     1802. 


INTRODUCTORY    LECTURE.  19 

who  made  use  of  those  errors  to  avoid  them,  and  derived 
from  that  meditation  principles  too  broad  and  too  deep 
to  be  shaken :  such  a  man  was  gained  to  the  cause  of 
morality,  and  religion,  by  these  sciences.  These  sci- 
ences certainly  made  no  infidel  of  Bishop  Warburton, 
as  Chubb,  Morgan,  Tindal,  and  half  a  dozen  others  found 
to  their  cost.  Tucker,  the  author  of  "  The  Light  of 
Nature,"  was  no  skeptic,  Locke  was  no  skeptic,  Hartley 
was  no  skeptic,  nor  was  Lord  Verulam.  Malebranche 
and  Arnauld  were  both  of  them  exceedingly  pious  men. 
We  none  of  us  can  believe  that  Dr.  Paley  has  exercised 
his  mind  upon  intellectual  philosophy  in  vain.  The 
fruits  of  it  in  him,  are  sound  sense  delivered  so  perspic- 
uously that  a  man  may  profit  by  it,  and  a  child  may 
comprehend  it :  solid  decision,  not  anticipated  by  inso- 
lence, but  earned  by  fair  argument ;  manly  piety,  un- 
adulterated by  superstition,  and  never  disgraced  by  cant. 
The  child  that  is  unborn  will  thank  that  man  for  his 
labors.* 

I  have  already  quoted  too  many  names,  but  I  must 
not  omit  one  which  would  alone  have  been  sufficient  to 
have  shown  that  there  is  no  necessary  connection  be- 
tween skepticism  and  the  philosophy  of  the  human  mind  ; 
I  mean  Bishop  Butler.  To  his  sermons  we  are  indebted 
for  the  complete  overthrow  of  the  selfish  system  ;  and  to 
his  "  Analogy,"  for  the  most  noble  and  surprising  defense 
of  revealed  religion,  perhaps,  which  has  ever  yet  been 
made  of  any  system  whatever.    But  there  is  no  occasion 

*  Sir  James  Mackintosh  says,  in  his  introductory  Law  lecture  (p.  32): 
— "  The  same  reason  will  excuse  me  for  passing  over  in  silence  the  works 
of  many  philosophers  and  moralists,  to  whom,  in  the  course  of  my  pro- 
posed lectures,  I  shall  owe  and  confess  the  greatest  obligations ;  and  it 
might  perhaps  deliver  me  from  the  necessity  of  speaking  of  Dr.  Paley,  if 
I  were  not  desirous  of  this  public  opportunity  of  professing  my  gratitude 
for  the  instruction  and  pleasure  which  I  have  received  from  that  excel- 
lent writer,  who  possesses,  in  so  eminent  a  degree,  those  invaluable  quali- 
ties of  a  moralist — good  sense,  caution,  sobriety,  and  perpetual  reference 
to  convenience  and  practice ;  and  who  certainly  is  thought  less  original 
than  he  really  is,  merely  because  his  taste  and  modesty  have  led  him  to 
disdain  the  ostentation  of  novelty,  and  because  he  generally  employs  more 
art  to  blend  his  own  arguments  with  the  body  of  received  opinions  (so  as 
that  they  are  scarce  to  be  distinguished),  than  other  men,  in  the  pursuit 
of  a  transient  popularity,  have  exerted  to  disguise  the  most  miserable 
commonplaces  in  the  shape  of  paradox." 


20  INTRODUCTORY    LECTURE. 

to  prop  this  argument  up  by  great  names.  The  school 
of  natural  religion  is  the  contemplation  of  nature  ;  the 
ancient  anatomist  who  was  an  atheist,  was  converted  by 
the  study  of  the  human  body :  he  thought  it  impossible 
that  so  many  admirable  contrivances  should  exist,  with- 
out an  intelligent  cause  ; — and  if  men  can  become  reli- 
gious from  looking  at  an  entrail,  or  a  nerve,  can  they  be 
taught  atheism  from  analyzing  the  structure  of  the  human 
mind  ?  Are  not  the  affections  and  passions  which  shake 
the  very  entrails  of  man,  and  the  thoughts  and  feelings 
which  dart  along  those  nerves,  more  indicative  of  a  God 
than  the  vile  perishing  instruments  themselves  ?  Can 
you  remember  the  nourishment  which  springs  up  in  the 
breast  of  a  mother,  and  forget  the  feelings  which  spring 
up  in  her  heart  ?  If  God  made  the  blood  of  man,  did  he 
not  make  that  feeling,  which  summons  the  blood  to  his 
face,  and  makes  it  the  sign  of  guilt  and  of  shame  ?  You 
may  show  me  a  human  hand,  expatiate  upon  the  singular 
contrivance  of  its  sinews,  and  bones  ;  how  admirable, 
how  useful,  for  all  the  purposes  of  grasp,  and  flexure  :  i" 
will  show  you,  in  return,  the  mind,  receiving  her  tribute 
from  the  senses  ; — comparing,  reflecting,  compounding, 
dividing,  abstracting ; — the  passions  soothing,  aspiring, 
exciting,  till  the  whole  world  falls  under  the  dominion 
of  man ;  evincing  that  in  his  mind  the  Creator  has  reared 
up  the  noblest  emblem  of  his  wisdom,  and  his  power. 
The  philosophy  of  the  human  mind  is  no  school  for  infi- 
delity, but  it  excites  the  warmest  feelings  of  piety,  and 
defends  them  with  the  soundest  reason. 

One  of  the  great  impediments  attendant  upon  this 
branch  of  knowledge  is  the  natural  and  original  difficulty 
of  reflecting  upon  the  operations  of  our  own  minds.  It 
is  much  more  easy,  for  instance,  to  think  of  the  parts  of 
an  intricate  machine,  than  of  any  act  of  memory,  judg- 
ment, or  imagination.  We  may  attribute  this  to  the 
necessity  we  are  under  of  attending  to  objects  of  sense, 
from  our  earliest  infancy.  We  are  under  no  necessity 
of  attending  with  great  carefulness  and  precision  to  the 
operations  of  our  minds ;  but  we  must  examine,  over  and 
over  again,  with  extreme  care,  the  ideas  of  our  senses, 
for  the  mere  purposes  of  security,  and  existence :    this 


INTRODUCTORY    LECTURE.  21 

gives  us  a  familiarity  with  one  set  of  ideas,  that  we  have 
had  no  opportunity  of  acquiring  in  the  other ;  and  makes 
this  species  of  study  very  difficult,  and  very  painful. 

Perhaps  no  habit  would  ever  render  it  as  easy  to 
attend  to  the  manner  in  which  our  mind  acts,  as  to 
attend  to  those  notions  we  have  gathered  from  the  eye, 
and  the  ear,  and  the  touch.  Providence,  intending  man 
for  a  life  of  greater  activity  than  contemplation,  has 
placed  this  impediment  to  the  free  exercise  of  thought, 
and  made  use  of  the  pain  which  generally  accompanies 
profound  meditation,  as  a  check  and  barrier  to  human 
power. 

Another  difficulty  which  attends  this  study,  is  the 
metaphorical  nature  of  its  language.  Mankind  first  give, 
names  to  the  objects  of  sense  which  surround  them, — to 
the  sun,  the  wind,  the  rain,  the  mountains,  woods,  and 
sea  ;  and  having  established  this  nomenclature,  they  call 
the  mind,  and  its  faculties,  by  the  name  of  some  object  to 
which  they  appear  to  bear  a  resemblance.  For  the  soul, 
they  have  generally  taken  the  name  of  the  most  subtile 
and  invisible  fluid  with  which  they  were  acquainted ; 
and,  accordingly,  in  a  great  variety  of  languages  it  is 
signified  by  the  same  word  which  signifies  wind,  or 
breath.* 

The  misfortune  is,  that  this  borrowed  language  insen- 
sibly betrays  us  into  false  notions  of  the  human  under- 
standing, from  which  we  find  it  rather  difficult  to 
disentangle  ourselves.  For  instance,  we  talk  about 
recollecting  a  place  as  if  we  had  gathered  together  the 


*  "  It  may  lead  us  a  little  toward  the  original  of  all  our  notions  and 
knowledge,  if  we  remark  how  great  a  dependence  our  words  have  on 
common  sensible  ideas,  and  how  those  which  are  made  use  of  to  stand  for 
actions  and  notions  quite  removed  from  sense,  have  their  rise  from  thence, 
and  from  obvious,  sensible  ideas,  are  transferred  to  more  abstruse  signifi- 
cations, and  made  to  stand  for  ideas,  that  come  not  under  the  cognizance 
of  our  senses ;  v.  g.,  to  imagine,  apprehend,  comprehend,  adhere,  conceive, 
instill,  disgust,  disturbance,  tranquillity,  (fee,  are  all  words  taken  from  the 
operations  of  sensible  things,  and  applied  to  certain  modes  of  thinking. 
Spirit,  in  its  primary  signification,  is  breath ; — angel,  a  messenger  :  and  I 
doubt  not,  but,  if  we  could  trace  them  to  their  sources,  we  should  find,  in 
all  languages,  the  names,  which  stand  for  things  that  fall  under  our  senses, 
to  have  had  their  first  rise  from  sensible  ideas." — Locke,  book  iii.  chap.  i. 
paragraph  5,  p.  190. 


22  INTRODUCTORY    LECTURE. 

ideas  of  the  parlor,  and  the  drawing-room,  and  the 
grass-plot,  which  lay  dispersed  in  different  parts  of  the 
brain,  and  put  them  into  the  order  in  which  they  really 
exist.  This  is  what  the  word  seems  to  suggest,  and 
what,  I  fancy,  many  people  actually  suppose  to  take 
place  in  their  understandings  ;  whereas  the  real  fact  is 
(as  I  shall  show  in  some  future  lecture  at  full  length), 
that  one  idea  of  the  whole  train  first  presents  itself  to 
our  mind,  and  after  we  have  made  every  effort  to  dwell 
upon,  and  retain  this,  the  others  follow  of  their  own  ac- 
cord, without  any  power  of  ours,  exactly  in  the  order  in 
which  they  had  been  previously  observed.  It  would, 
however,  be  extremely  curious  and  useful,  to  collect,  in 
a  great  variety  of  languages,  all  the  similitudes  which 
mankind  have  hit  upon,  for  the  operations  and  divisions 
of  the  faculties  of  the  mind.  Such  a  long,  extensive,  and 
authentic  record  of  human  opinions  upon  these  subjects, 
might  give  birth  to  many  interesting  speculations,  and 
throw  some  light  upon  questions  which  have  long  been 
the  opprobrium  of  this  science. 

Some  very  considerable  men  are  accustomed  to  hold 
very  strong  and  sanguine  language  respecting  the 
important  discoveries  which  are  to  be  made  in  Moral 
Philosophy,  from  a  close  attention  to  facts  ;  and  by  that 
method  of  induction  which  has  been  so  invaluably  em- 
ployed in  Natural  Philosophy :  but  then  this  appears  to 
be  the  difference  ; — that  Natural  Philosophy  is  directed 
to  subjects  with  which  we  are  little  or  imperfectly  ac- 
quainted ;  Moral  Philosophy  investigates  faculties  we 
have  always  exercised,  and  passions  we  have  always 
felt.  Chemistry,  for  instance,  is  perpetually  bringing  to 
light  fresh  existences  ;  four  or  five  new  metals  have  been 
discovered  within  as  many  years,  of  the  existence  of 
which  no  human  being  could  have  had  any  suspicion ; 
but  no  man,  that  I  know  of,  pretends  to  discover  four  or 
five  new  passions,  neither  can  any  thing  very  new  be 
discovered  of  those  passions  and  faculties  with  which 
mankind  are  already  familiar.  We  are,  in  natural  philos- 
ophy, perpetually  making  discoveries  of  new  properties 
in  bodies,  with  whose  existence  we  have  been  acquainted 
for  centuries  :    Sir  James  Hall  has  just  discovered  that 


INTRODUCTORY    LECTURE.  23 

lime  can  be  melted  by  carbonic  acid ; — but  who  hopes 
that  he  can  discover  any  new  flux  for  avarice  ?  or  any 
improved  method  of  judging,  and  comparing  ?  We  have 
have  had  no  occasion  to  busy  ourselves  with  the  chro- 
mian  or  Titanian  metal ;  but  we  have  commonly  em- 
ployed our  minds  for  twenty  or  thirty  years,  before  we 
begin  to  speculate  upon  them. 

There  may,  indeed,  be  speculative  discoveries  made 
with  respect  to  the  human  mind  ;  for  instance,  Mr. 
Dugald  Stewart  contends  that  attention  should  be 
classed  among  our  faculties.  Now  if  attention  be  a 
faculty,  it  is  certainly  a  discovery,  for  nobody  had  ever 
so  classed  it  before  Mr.  Stewart :  but  whether  it  be  so, 
or  only  a  mode  of  other  faculties,  it  is  of  no  consequence 
in  practice  ;  for  nobody  has  ever  been  ignorant  of  the 
importance  and  efficacy  of  attention,  whether  it  be  one 
thing,  or  whether  it  be  the  other. 

So  with  that  notion  of  the  Rev.  Mr.  Gay's,  that  all 
our  passions  are  explicable  upon  the  principle  of  asso- 
ciation ;  if  this  opinion  be  true,  it  is  a  discovery,  and  a 
curious  one.  But -then  it  affords  no  practical  rule,  for 
mankind  are  too  much  acquainted  with  practical  rules 
to  allow  of  such  pure  novelty  as  would  constitute  dis- 
covery. 

Of  the  uses  of  this  science  of  Moral  Philosophy  one 
is — the  vigor  and  acuteness,  which  it  is  apt  to  com- 
municate to  the  faculties.  The  slow  and  cautious  pace 
of  mathematics  is  not  fit  for  the  rough  road  of  life  ;  it 
teaches  no  habits  which  will  be  of  use  to  us  when  we 
come  to  march  in  good  earnest :  it  will  not  do,  when 
men  come  to  real  business,  to  be  calling  for  axioms,  and 
definitions,  and  to  admit  nothing  without  full  proof,  and 
perfect  deduction  ;  we  must  decide  sometimes  upon  the 
slightest  evidence,  catch  the  faintest  surmise,  and  get  to 
the  end  of  an  affair  before  a  mathematical  head  could 
decide  about  its  commencement.  I  am  not  comparing 
the  general  value  of  the  two  sciences,  but  merely  their 
value  as  preparatory  exercises  for  the  mind  ;  and  there, 
it  appears  to  me  that  the  science  of  Moral  Philosophy  is 
much  better  calculated  to  form  intellectual  habits,  useful 
in  real  life.      The  subtilties   about   mind   and   matter, 


24  INTRODUCTORY    LECTURE. 

cause  and  effect,  perception  and  sensation,  may  be  for- 
gotten ;  but  the  power  of  nice  discrimination,  of  arresting 
and  examining  the  most  subtile  and  evanescent  ideas, 
and  of  striking  rapidly,  and  boldly,  into  the  faintest  track 
of  analogy  ;  to  see  where  it  leads,  and  what  it  will  pro- 
duce ;  an  emancipation  from  the  tyranny  of  words,  an 
undaunted  intrepidity  to  push  opinions  up  to  their  first 
causes  ; — all  these  virtues  remain,  in  the  dexterous  poli- 
tician, the  acute  advocate,  and  the  unerring  judge. 

I  have  said  that  no  practical  discoveries  can  be  made 
in  Moral  Philosophy,  because  I  think  the  word  discovery 
implies  so  much  originality,  and  novelty,  that  I  can 
hardly  suppose  they  will  be  met  with  in  a  subject  with 
which  mankind  are  so  familiar.  But  then  opinions  may 
be  discoveries  to  the  individual,  which  are  not  discov- 
eries to  the  world  at  large.  It  may  be  of  incalcuable 
advantage  to  me,  at  an  early  period  of  life,  to  guard  my 
understanding  from  the  pernicious  effects  of  association ; 
though  those  effects  can  not  now  be  pointed  out  for  the 
first  time  ;  I  might  have  learned  something  about 
association  without  the  aid  of  this  science,  by  the  mere 
intercourse  of  life,  but  I  should  not  have  learned  that 
lesson  so  early,  and  so  well.  I  am  no  longer  left  to 
gather  this  important  law  of  my  nature  from  accidental 
and  disconnected  remark,  but  it  is  brought  fully  and 
luminously  before  me ; — I  see  that  one  man  differs  from 
another  in  the  rank  and  nobleness  of  his  understanding, 
in  proportion  as  he  counteracts  this  intellectual  attrac- 
tion of  cohesion  ;  I  become  permanently,  and  vigilantly, 
suspicious  of  this  principle  in  my  own  mind ;  and  when 
called  upon,  in  the  great  occasions  of  life,  to  think,  and 
to  act,  I  separate  my  judgment  from  the  mere  accidents 
of  my  life,  and  decide,  not  according  to  the  casualties 
of  my  fortune,  but  the  unbiased  dictates  of  my  reason : 
without  this  science,  I  might  have  had  a  general,  and 
faint  suspicion — with  it,  I  have  a  rooted  and  operative 
conviction — of  the  errors  to  which  my  understanding  is 
exposed.  If  it  be  useful  to  our  talents,  and  virtues,  to 
turn  the  mind  inwardly  upon  itself,  and  to  observe 
attentively  the  facts  relative  to  our  passions  and  faculties, 
this  is  the  value,  and  this  the  object,  of  Moral  Philosophy. 


INTRODUCTORY  LECTURE.  25 

It  teaches,  for  the  conduct  of  the  understanding,  a 
variety  of  delicate  rules  which  can  result  only  from  such 
sort  of  meditation ;  and  it  gradually  subjects  the  most 
impetuous  feelings  to  patient  examination  and  wise  con- 
trol :  it  inures  the  youthful  mind  to  intellectual  difficulty, 
and  to  enterprise  in  thinking  ;  and  makes  it  as  keen  as 
an  eagle,  and  as  unwearied  as  the  wing  of  an  angel.  In 
looking  round  the  region  of  spirit,  from  the  mind  of  the 
brute  and  the  reptile,  to  the  sublimest  exertions  of  the 
human  understanding,  this  philosophy  lays  deep  the 
foundations  of  a  fervent  and  grateful  piety,  for  those 
intellectual  riches  which  have  been  dealt  out  to  us  with 
no  scanty  measure.  With  sensation  alone,  we  might 
have  possessed  the  earth,  as  it  is  possessed  by  the  lowest 
order  of  beings  :  but  we  have  talents  which  bend  all  the 
laws  of  nature  to  our  service  ;  memory  for  the  past, 
providence  for  the  future, — senses  which  mingle  pleasure 
with  intelligence,  the  surprise  of  novelty,  the  boundless 
energy  of  imagination,  accuracy  in  comparing,  and 
severity  in  judging ;  an  original  affection,  which  binds 
us  together  in  society ;  a  swiftness  to  pity ;  a  fear  of 
shame  ;  a  love  of  esteem  ;  a  detestation  of  all  that  is 
cruel,  mean,  and  unjust.  All  these  things  Moral  Philoso- 
phy observes,  and,  observing,  adores  the  Being  from 
whence  they  proceed. 

B 


LECTURE    II. 

HISTORY   OF   MORAL   PHILOSOPHY. 

I  purpose  to  give,  in  this  lecture,  a  succinct  history  of 
opinions,  both  in  the  intellectual  and  active  divisions  of 
Moral  Philosophy ;  from  the  formation  of  the  great 
schools  in  Greece  to  the  present  time. 

Of  the  principles  from  which  the  obligations  to  virtue 
proceed,  most  sects  have  given  an  account  which  is  at 
least  intelligible,  however  each  particular  persuasion 
may  vary  from  that  which  precedes  it :  but  the  specula- 
tions of  many  of  the  ancients  on  the  human  understand- 
ing, are  so  confused,  and  so  purely  hypothetical,  that 
their  greatest  admirers  are  not  agreed  upon  their  mean- 
ing; and  whenever  we  can  procure  a  plain  statement 
of  their  doctrines,  all  other  modes  of  refuting  them 
appear  to  be  wTholly  superfluous. 

Whoever  is  fond  of  picking  up  little  bits  of  wisdom, 
in  great  heaps  of  folly,  and  of  seeing  Moral  Philosophy 
and  common  sense  beaming  through  the  gross  darkness 
of  polytheism,  and  poetical  fiction,  may  sit  down  and 
trace  this  science  from  Zoroaster  the  Chaldean,  Belus  the 
Assyrian,  and  Berosus,  who  taught  the  Chaldean  learning 
to  the  Greeks.  He  will  find  a  very  pleasant  obscurity 
in  all  that  we  know  of  the  opinions  of  Zoroaster,  of  the 
Persian  Magi,  Hystaspes,  and  Hostanes.  Of  those 
celebrated  men  Cadmus,  and  Sanchoniathon,  and  poor 
Moschus  the  Phoenician,  so  heartily  abused  by  Dr.  Cud- 
worth,  he  may  pick  up  some  acute  remarks  of  Theut,  or 
Thoth,  the  founder  of  Egyptian  wisdom,  and  philosophize 
with  Abaris,  Anacharsis,  Toxaris,  and  Zamolxis,  the 
learned  Scythians.  Passing  by  all  these  gallant  gentle- 
men (for  whose  company  I  confess  I  have  no  very  great 


HISTORY    OF    MORAL    PHILOSOPHY.  27 

relish),  I  shall  descend  at  once  upon  Athens,  where 
philosophy,  as  Milton  says,  came  down  from  heaven  to 
the  low-roofed  house  of  Socrates. 

"  from  whose  mouth  issued  forth 

Mellifluous  streams  that  watered  all  the  schools 
Of  Academics  old  and  new ;  with  those 
Surnamed  Peripatetics,  and  the  sect 
Epicurean,  and  the  Stoic  severe." 

The  morality  of  Socrates  was  reared  upon  the  basis 
of  religion.  The  principles  of  virtuous  conduct  which 
are  common  to  all  mankind,  are,  according  to  this  wise 
and  good  man,  laws  of  God ;  and  the  argument  by  which 
he  supports  this  opinion  is,  that  no  man  departs  from 
these  principles  with  impunity.  "  It  is  frequently  possi- 
ble," says  he,  "  for  men  to  screen  themselves  from  the 
penalty  of  human  laws,  but  no  man  can  be  unjust  or 
ungrateful  without  suffering  for  his  crime — hence  I  con- 
clude that  these  laws  must  have  proceeded  from  a  more 
excellent  legislator  than  man."  Socrates  taught  that 
true  felicity  is  not  to  be  derived  from  external  possessions, 
but  from  wisdom  ;  which  consists  in  the  knowledge  and 
practice  of  virtue ; — that  the  cultivation  of  virtuous 
manners  is  necessarily  attended  with  pleasure  as  well  as 
profit ; — that  the  honest  man  alone,  is  happy ; — and  that 
it  is  absurd  to  attempt  to  separate  things  which  are  in 
their  nature  so  united  as  virtue  and  interest. 

Socrates  was,  in  truth,  not  very  fond  of  subtile  and 
refined  speculations  ;  and  upon  the  intellectual  part  of 
our  nature,  little  or  nothing  of  his  opinions  is  recorded. 
If  we  may  infer  any  thing  from  the  clearness  and  sim- 
plicity of  his  opinions  on  moral  subjects,  and  from  the 
bent  which  his  genius  had  received  for  the  useful  and 
the  practical,  he  would  certainly  have  laid  a  strong- 
foundation  for  rational  metaphysics.  The  slight  sketch 
I  have  given  of  his  moral  doctrines  contains  nothing 
very  new  or  very  brilliant,  but  comprehends  those  moral 
doctrines  which  every  person  of  education  has  been 
accustomed  to  hear  from  his  childhood ; — but  two  thou- 
sand years  ago  they  were  great  discoveries, — two  thou- 
sand years  since,  common  sense  was  not  invented.  If 
Orpheus,  or  Linus,  or  any  of  those  melodious  moralists, 


28  LECTURE    II. 

sung,  in  bad  verses,  such  advice  as  a  grand-mamma 
would  now  give  to  a  child  of  six  years  old,  he  was 
thought  to  be  inspired  by  the  gods,  and  statues  and  altars 
were  erected  to  his  memory.  In  Hesiod  there  is  a  very 
grave  exhortation  to  mankind  to  wash  their  faces  :  and 
I  have  discovered  a  very  strong  analogy  between  the 
precepts  of  Pythagoras  and  Mrs.  Trimmer  ; — both  think 
that  a  son  ought  to  obey  his  father,  and  both  are  clear 
that  a  good  man  is  better  than  a  bad  one.  Therefore, 
to  measure  aright  this  extraordinary  man,  we  must 
remember  the  period  at  which  he  lived ;  that  he  was  the 
first  who  called  the  attention  of  mankind  from  the  perni- 
cious subtilties  which  engaged  and  perplexed  their 
wandering  understandings  to  the  practical  rules  of  life  ; — 
he  was  the  great  father  and  inventor  of  common  sense, 
as  Ceres  was  of  the  plow,  and  Bacchus  of  intoxication. 
First  he  taught  his  cotemporaries  that  they  did  not  know 
what  they  pretended  to  know  ;  then  he  showed  them 
that  they  knew  nothing  ;  then  he  told  them  what  they 
ought  to  know.  Lastly,  to  sum  up  the  praise  of  Socrates, 
remember  that  two  thousand  years  ago,  while  men  were 
worshiping  the  stones  on  which  they  trod,  and  the 
insects  which  crawled  beneath  their  feet ; — two  thousand 
years  ago,  with  the  bowl  of  poison  in  his  hand,  Socrates 
said,  "  I  am  persuaded  that  my  death,  which  is  now  just 
coming,  will  conduct  me  into  the  presence  of  the  gods, 
who  are  the  most  righteous  governors,  and  into  the  society 
of  just  and  good  men ;  and  I  derive  confidence  from  the 
hope  that  something  of  man  remains  after  death,  and 
that  the  condition  of  good  men  will  then  be  much  better 
than  that  of  the  bad."  Soon  after  this  he  covered  him- 
self up  with  his  cloak  and  expired. 

From  the  Socratic  school  sprang  the  Cyrenaic,  the 
Eliac,  the  Megaric,  the  Academic,  and  the  Cynic.  Of 
all  these  I  shall  notice  only  the  Academic,  because  all 
the  rest  are  of  very  inferior  note. 

Of  all  the  disciples  of  Socrates,  Plato,  though  he  calls 
himself  the  least,  was  certainly  the  most  celebrated.  As 
long  as  philosophy  continued  to  be  studied  among  the 
Greeks  and  Romans,  his  doctrines  were  taught,  and  his 
name  revered.      Even  to  the  present  day  his  writings 


HISTORY    OF    MORAL    PHILOSOPHY.  29 

give  a  tinge  to  the  language  and  speculations  of  philos- 
ophy and  theology.  Of  the  majestic  beauty  of  Plato's 
style,  it  is  almost  impossible  to  convey  an  adequate  idea. 
He  keeps  the  understanding  up  to  a  high  pitch  of  enthu- 
siasm longer  than  any  existing  writer ;  and,  in  reading 
Plato,  zeal  and  animation  seem  rather  to  be  the  regular 
feelings  than  the  casual  effervescence  of  the  mind.  He 
appears  almost  disdaining  the  mutability  and  imperfection 
of  the  earth  on  which  he  treads,  to  be  drawing  down  fire 
from  heaven,  and  to  be  seeking  among  the  gods  above, 
for  the  permanent,  the  beautiful,  and  the  grand!  In 
contrasting  the  vigor  and  the  magnitude  of  his  concep- 
tions with  the  extravagance  of  his  philosophical  tenets, 
it  is  almost  impossible  to  avoid  wishing  that  he  had  con- 
fined himself  to  the  practice  of  eloquence ;  and,  in  this 
way  giving  range  and  expansion  to  the  mind  which  was 
struggling  within  him,  had  become  one  of  those  famous 
orators  who 

"  Wielded  at  will  that  fierce  democratic, 
Shook  th'  arsenal,  and  fulmin'd  over  Greece 
To  Macedon  and  Artaxerxes'  throne." 

After  having  said  so  much  of  his  language,  I  am  afraid 
I  must  proceed  to  his  philosophy;  observing  always, 
that,  in  stating  it,  I  do  not  always  pretend  to  understand 
it,  and  do  not  even  engage  to  defend  it.  In  comparing 
the  very  few  marks  of  sobriety  and  discretion  with  the 
splendor  of  his  genius,  I  have  often  exclaimed  as  Prince 
Henry  did  about  Falstaff's  bill, — "  Oh,  monstrous  !  but 
one  halfpennyworth  of  bread  to  this  intolerable  deal  of 
sack  !" 

His  notion  was,  that  the  principles  out  of  which  the 
world  was  composed  were  three  in  number, — the  subject 
matter  of  things,  their  specific  essences,  and  the  sensible 
objects  themselves.  These  last,  he  conceived  to  have 
no  probable  or  durable  existence,  but  to  be  always  in  a 
state  of  fluctuation  : — but  then  there  were  certain  ever- 
lasting patterns  and  copies,  from  which  every  thing  had 
been  made,  and  which  he  denominated  their  specific 
essences.  For  instance,  the  individual  rose  which  I 
smell  at  this  instant,  or  a  particular  pony  upon  which  I 
cast  my  eye,  are  objects  of  sense  which  have  no  durable 


30  LECTURE    II. 

existence  ; — the  individual  idea  I  have  of  them  this  mo- 
ment is  not  numerically  the  same  as  the  idea  which  I 
had  the  moment  before ;  just  as  the  river  which  I  pass 
now  is  not  the  same  river  which  I  passed  half  an  hour 
before,  because  the  individual  water  in  which  I  trod  has 
glided  away :  therefore  these  appearances  of  the  rose, 
and  the  pony,  are  of  very  little  importance  ;  but  there  is 
somewhere  or  other  an  eternal  pony,  and  an  eternal  rose, 
after  the  pattern  of  which  one  and  the  other  have  been 
created.  The  same  with  actions  as  with  things.  If 
Plato  had  seen  one  person  make  a  bow  to  another,  he 
would  have  said  that  the  particular  bow  was  a  mere 
visible  species  ;  but  there  was  an  unchanging  bow  which 
had  existed  from  all  eternity,  and  which  was  the  model 
and  archetype  and  specific  essence  of  all  other  bows. 
But,  says  Plato,  all  things  in  this  world  are  individuals. 
We  see  this  man,  and  that  man,  and  the  other  man; 
but  a  man — the  general  notion  of  a  man — we  do  not, 
and  can  not  gain  from  our  senses  :  therefore  we  have 
existed  in  some  previous  state,  where  we  have  gained 
these  notions  of  uuiversal  natures.  In  childhood,  where 
human  creatures  are  governed  by  the  feelings  of  the 
body,  these  general  ideas  are  forgotten  :  but  in  propor- 
tion as  reason  assumes  the  reins  of  empire,  we  call  to 
mind  these  eternal  exemplars,  of  which  our  understand- 
ing had  before  taken  notice  in  a  previous  state  of  exist- 
ence. Thus,  to  form  general  ideas  was  merely  an  act 
of  memory ; — and  in  this  manner  Plato  attempted  to 
overcome  a  difficulty  which,  two  thousand  years  after- 
ward, drove  Malebranche  to  a  theory  equally  extrava- 
gant, wTas  too  hard  for  Mr.  Locke,  and  was  settled,  at 
fast,  by  the  extraordinary  acuteness  of  Bishop  Berkeley. 
Plato's  ideas  of  virtue  were  these  :  he  divided  the  soul 
into  three  different  natures — reason,  or  the  governing 
power ;  the  passions  founded  on  pride  and  resentment, 
or  the  irascible  part  of  our  nature  ;  and  the  passions 
which  have  pleasure  for  their  object,  and  which  we 
commonly  call  by  the  name  of  appetites.  Virtue,  ac- 
cording to  this  system,  then  exhibited  herself  when  each 
of  these  three  faculties  of  the  mind  confined  itself  to  its 
proper  office,  without  attempting  to  encroach  upon  that 


HISTORY    OF    MORAL    PHILOSOPHY.  31 

of  any  other; — when  reason,  directed,  and  passion  obeyed ; 
and  when  each  passion  performed  its  proper  duty  easily, 
and  without  reluctance.  Of  this  system  it  may  be  shortly 
remarked,  that  it  is  generally  good  as  far  as  it  goes,  but 
that  it  does  not  go  far  enough  ;  for  if  you  tell  me  that 
prudence  and  propriety  are  the  test  of  virtue,  I  ask  you 
why  are  they  the  test  of  virtue  ?  If  you  can  give  me  no 
reason,  why  do  you  call  them  so  ?  and  if  you  can,  the 
system  does  not  reach  the  foundation  of  morals,  or  afford 
me  the  ultimate  reason  why  one  action  is  better  than 
another. 

The  school  of  Plato  long  continued  famous,  but  passed 
through  several  changes ;  on  account  of  which  it  was 
distinguished  into  the  old,  the  middle,  and  the  new 
Academy.  The  old  Academy  consisted  of  those  fol- 
lowers of  Plato  who  taught  his  doctrine  without  cor- 
ruption. It  was  the  doctrine  of  the  new  Academy 
(founded  by  Carneades)  that  the  senses,  the  understand- 
ing, and  the  imagination,  frequently  deceive  us,  and 
therefore  can  not  be  infallible  judges  of  truth  ;  but  that, 
from  the  impressions  which  we  perceive  to  be  produced 
on  the  mind  by  means  of  the  senses,  we  infer  appearances 
of  truth,  or  probabilities :  these  impressions  Carneades 
called  phantasies  or  images.  He  maintained  that  they 
do  not  always  correspond  to  the  real  nature  of  things  ; 
and  that  there  is  no  infallible  method  of  determining 
when  they  are  true  or  false.  Nevertheless,  with  respect 
to  the  conduct  of  life  and  the  pursuit  of  happiness,  Car- 
neades held,  that  probable  appearances  are  a  sufficient 
guide,  because  it  is  unreasonable  not  to  allow  some  de- 
gree of  credit  to  those  witnesses  who  commonly  give  a 
true  report. 

Of  probabilities  Carneades  made  the  following  scale  : 
— The  lowest  degree  was,  where  the  mind,  in  the  casual 
occurrence  of  any  single  image,  perceived  in  it  nothing 
contrary  to  nature  or  truth.  The  second  was,  when  the 
circumstances  by  which  that  image  was  accompanied 
afforded  no  appearance  of  inconsistency  or  incongruity 
which  might  lead  us  to  suspect  the  truth  of  the  sensa- 
tion :  as,  for  instance,  if  I  think  I  see  a  horse,  the  cir- 
cumstance  of  his  appearing  at   the  same    time    to  be 


32  LECTURE    II. 

grazing  m  a  meadow  is  an  additional  corroboration  of 
the  truth  of  the  sensation ;  but  if  I  think  I  see  a  horse 
upon  the  top  of  a  house,  the  circumstances  which 
accompany  this  idea  of  the  horse,  ought  to  go  some  way 
to  convince  me  I  am  mad,  or  dreaming.  The  last  point 
in  the  scale  of  probabilities  I  can  really  hardly  distin- 
guish from  the  second ;  it  seems  only  a  longer  and  more 
serious  pause,  a  more  cautious  and  minute  examination 
of  the  evidence  of  the  senses ; — and  thus  much  of  the 
philosophy  of  the  new  Academy  (stripped  of  the  magis- 
terial and  ostentatious  garb  in  which  all  the  Grecian 
schools  tricked  out  their  theories)  seems  to  be  good  plain 
sense.  All  knowledge  founded  upon  the  evidence  of  the 
senses  is,  and  can  be,  strictly  speaking,  nothing  more 
than  probable  evidence.  The  mathematics  alone  afford 
us  certain  evidence. 

The  shades  of  difference  between  the  middle  Academy 
and  the  new  are  so  slight,  and  the  sketch  I  am  attempt- 
ing to  give  must  necessarily  be  so  very  summary,  that  I 
shall  pass  over  this  first  ramification  of  the  Platonic 
school  to  the  philosophy  of  Aristotle  ;  humbly  imploring 
the  forgiveness  of  those  disciples  of  Arcesilaus,  and 
favorers  of  the  middle  Academy,  who  may  happen  to  be 
present  this  day  at  the  Institution. 

Whoever  Is  fond  of  the  biographical  art,  as  a  reposi- 
tory of  the  actions  and  the  fortunes  of  great  men,  may 
enjoy  an  agreeable  specimen  of  its  certainty  in  the  life 
of  Aristotle.  Some  writers  say  he  was  a  Jew ;  others, 
that  he  got  all  his  information  from  a  Jew,  that  he  kept 
an  apothecary's  shop,  and  was  an  atheist ;  others  say,  on 
the  contrary,  that  he  did  not  keep  an  apothecary's  shop, 
and  that  he  was  a  Trinitarian.  Some  say  he  respected 
the  religion  of  his  country ;  others  that  he  offered  sacri- 
fices to  his  wife,  and  made  hymns  in  favor  of  his  father- 
in-law.  Some  are  of  opinion  he  was  poisoned  by  the 
priests  ;  others  are  clear  that  he  died  of  vexation,  because 
he  could  not  discover  the  causes  of  the  ebb  and  flow  in 
the  Eurlpus.  We  now  care  or  know  so  little  about 
Aristotle,  that  Mr.  Fielding,  in  one  of  his  novels,  says, 
"Aristotle  is  not  such  a  fool  as  many  people  believe, 
who  never  read  a  syllable  of  his  works." 


HISTORY    OF    MORAL    PHILOSOPHY.  33 

Before  the  Reformation,  his  morals  used  to  be  read  to 
the  people  in  some  of  the  churches  of  Germany,  instead 
of  the  Scriptures ;  his  philosophy  had  an  exclusive 
monopoly  granted  to  it  by  the  parliament  of  Paris,  who 
forbade  the  use  of  any  other  in  France ;  and  the  Presi- 
dent De  Thou  informs  us,  that  Paul  de  Foix,  one  of  the 
most  learned  and  elegant  men  of  his  time,  in  passing 
through  Ferrara,  refused  to  see  the  famous  Patricius,  or 
to  meet  him  at  any  third  house,  because  he  disbelieved 
in  some  of  the  doctrines  of  Aristotle.  Certainly  the  two 
human  beings  who  have  had  the  greatest  influence  upon 
the  understandings  of  mankind  have  been  Aristotle  and 
Lord  Bacon.  To  Lord  Bacon  we  are  indebted  for  an 
almost  daily  extension  of  our  knowledge  of  the  laws  of 
nature  in  the  outward  world ;  and  the  same  modest  and 
cautious  spirit  of  inquiry  extended  to  Moral  Philosophy, 
will  probably  at  last  give  us  clear,  intelligible  ideas  of 
our  spiritual  nature.  Every  succeeding  year  is  an 
additional  confirmation  to  us  that  we  are  traveling  in 
the  true  path  of  knowledge  ;  and  as  it  brings  in  fresh 
tributes  of  science  for  the  increase  of  human  happiness, 
it  extorts  from  us  fresh  tributes  of  praise  to  the  guide 
and  father  of  true  philosophy.  To  the  understanding  of 
Aristotle,  equally  vast,  perhaps,  and  equally  original,  we 
are  indebted  for  fifteen  hundred  years  of  quibbling  and 
ignorance ;  in  which  the  earth  fell  under  the  tyranny  of 
words,  and  philosophers  quarreled  with  one  another,  like 
drunken  men  in  dark  rooms  who  hate  peace  without 
knowing  why  they  fight,  or  seeing  how  to  take  aim. 
Professors  were  multiplied  without  the  world  becoming 
wiser ;  and  volumes  of  Aristotelian  philosophy  were 
written  which,  if  piled  one  upon  another,  would  have 
equaled  the  Tower  of  Babel  in  height,  and  far  exceeded 
it  in  confusion.  Such  are  the  obligations  we  owe  to  the 
mighty  Stagirite  ;  for  that  he  was  of  very  mighty  under- 
standing, the  broad  circumference  and  the  deep  root  of 
his  philosophy  most  lamentably  evince.  His  treatises 
on  Government,  on  Rhetoric,  on  Poetry,  are  still  highly 
valued.  I  have  been  speaking  of  him  as  a  natural 
philosopher,  as  a  metaphysician,  and  as  a  logician.  I 
would  refer  those  who  are  great  sticklers  for  Aristotle's 


34  LECTUEE    II. 

various  treatises  on  morals  to  Grotius's  critique  on  them 
in  his  treatise  on  Peace  and  War,  and  to  Barbeyrac's 
preface  to  Puffendorf.  Of  his  experiments  Lord  Bacon 
says,  that,  of  all  the  ancient  philosophers,  Aristotle  was 
the  greatest  enemy  to  experimental  philosophy  ;  for  he 
first  of  all  laid  down  a  theory  in  his  own  mind,  and  then 
distorted  his  experiments  to  support  it.  In  his  treatise 
on  Government  there  are  some  very  enormous  and 
atrocious  doctrines. 

Aristotle  held,  that  all  sensible  objects  were  made  up 
of  two  principles,  both  of  which  he  calls  equally  sub- 
stances,— the  matter,  and  the  specific  essence.  He  was 
not  obliged  to  hold,  like  Plato,  that  those  principles 
existed  prior  in  order  of  time  to  the  objects  which  they 
afterward  composed.  They  were  prior,  he  said,  in 
nature,  but  not  in  time  (according  to  a  distinction  which 
was  of  use  to  him  upon  many  other  occasions).  He 
distinguished  also  between  actual  and  potential  existence : 
by  the  first,  understanding  what  is  commonly  meant  by 
existence,  or  reality ;  by  the  second,  the  bare  possibility 
of  existence.  Neither  the  material  essence  of  body 
could,  according  to  him,  exist  actually  without  being 
determined  by  some  specific  essence  to  some  particular 
class  of  being,  nor  any  specific  essence  without  being 
embodied  in  some  portion  of  matter.  Each  of  these  two 
principles,  however,  could  exist  potentially  in  a  separate 
state.  That  matter  existed  potentially  which,  being 
endowed  with  a  particular  form,  could  be  brought  into 
actual  existence ;  and  that  form  existed  potentially 
which,  by  being  embodied  in  a  particular  portion  of 
matter,  could  in  the  same  manner  be  called  forth  into  the 
class  of  complete  realities.  What  difference  there  is 
between  the  potential  existence  of  Aristotle,  and  the 
separate  essences  of  Plato,  and  what  foundation  there  is 
in  reality  either  for  the  one  or  the  other,  I  confess 
myself  wholly  at  a  loss  to  comprehend. 

Virtue,  according  to  this  philosopher,  consists  in  the 
habit  of  mediocrity  according  to  right  reason.  Every 
particular  virtue,  according  to  him,  lies  in  a  medium 
between  two  opposite  vices  ;  of  which  the  one  offends 
from  being  too   much,  the  other  from  being  too  little 


HISTORY    OP    MORAL    PHILOSOPHY.  35 

affected  by  a  particular  species  of  objects.  Thus,  the 
virtue  of  fortitude  lies  in  the  middle  between  the  oppo- 
site extremes  of  cowardice  and  rashness  ;  of  which  the 
one  offends  from  being  too  much,  the  other  too  little 
affected  by  the  objects  of  fear.  And  magnanimity,  in 
the  same  manner,  is  a  sort  of  medium  estimation  of  our 
own  dignity,  equally  removed  from  the  extremes  of 
arrogance  and  pusillanimity. 

Aristotle,  when  he  made  virtue  to  consist  in  practical 
habits,  had  it  probably  in  view  to  oppose  the  doctrine  of 
Plato,  who  seems  to  have  been  of  opinion  that  just 
sentiments,  and  reasonable  judgments,  concerning  what 
was  fit  to  be  done  or  avoided,  were  alone  sufficient  to 
constitute  the  most  perfect  virtue.  Virtue,  according 
to  Plato,  might  be  considered  as  a  sort  of  science  ;  and 
no  man,  he  thought,  could  see  clearly  what  was  right 
and  wrong,  and  not  act  accordingly.  Aristotle,  on  the 
contrary,  was  of  opinion,  that  no  conviction  of  the 
understanding  could  get  the  better  of  inveterate  habits ; 
and  that  good  morals  arose  not  from  knowledge,  but 
from  action. 

Next  comes  the  Stoic  sect,  whose  founder  was  Zeno.* 
Zeno  was  born  at  Cyprus,  and  was  the  son  of  a  mer- 
chant, who,  having  frequent  occasion  in  his  mercantile 
capacity  to  visit  Athens,  bought  for  his  son  several  of 
the  writings  of  the  most  eminent  Socratic  philosophers. 
These  he  read  with  great  avidity,  and  from  their  perusal 
laid  the  foundation  of  his  philosophical  fame.  In  the 
course  of  his  mercantile  pursuits  he  freighted  a  ship  for 
Athens,  with  a  very  valuable  cargo  of  Phoenician  purple, 
which  he  completely  lost  by  shipwreck  on  the  coast,  near 
the  Piraeus.  A  very  acute  man,  who  found  himself  in  a 
state  of  sudden  and  complete  poverty  at  Athens,  would 
naturally  enough  think  of  turning  philosopher,  both  as  by 
its  doctrines  it  inspired  him  with  some  consolation  for 
the  loss  of  his   Phoenician   purple,  and   by   its   profits 

*  According  to  Zeno,  the  founder  of  the  Stoical  doctrine,  every  animal 
was  by  nature  recommended  to  its  own  care  ;  and  was  endowed  with  the 
principle  of  self-love,  that  it  might  endeavor  to  preserve,  not  only  its  ex- 
istence, but  all  the  different  parts  of  its  nature,  in  the  best  and  most  per- 
fect state  of  which  they  were  capable. — Adam  Smith's  Theory  of  Moral 
Sentiments,  vol.  ii.  part  vii.  s^ot.  ii. 


36  LECTURE    II. 

afforded  him  some  chance  of  subsistence  without  it. 
After  attending  various  masters  of  the  Cynic  school, 
which  was  then  in  high  reputation,  he  put  forth  his  own 
system  of  opinions,  upon  which  was  formed  the  Stoic 
school,  one  of  the  most  considerable  in  ancient  Greece. 
The  opinions  of  the  Stoics  upon  the  intellectual  part 
of  our  nature,  were  either  the  same  as,  or  very  nearly 
allied  to,  those  of  Plato  and  Aristotle  ;  though  they  were 
often  disguised  in  very  different  iangnage.  The  accounts 
of  the  morality  of  the  Stoics  I  shall  read  to  you  from  the 
very  beautiful  epitome  which  Dr.  Adam  Smith  has 
given  of  their  doctrines  in  the  second  volume  of  his 
"  Theory  of  Moral  Sentiments"  (p.  186).  "  The  self- 
love  of  man  embraced,  if  I  may  say  so,  his  body  and  all 
its  different  members,  his  mind  and  all  its  different  facul- 
ties and  powers,  and  desired  the  preservation  and  main- 
tenance of  them  all  in  their  best  and  most  perfect  condi- 
tion. Whatever  tended  to  support  this  state  of  existence 
was,  therefore,  by  nature  pointed  out  to  him  as  fit  to  be 
chosen  ;  and  whatever  tended  to  destroy  it  as  fit  to  be 
rejected.  Thus  health,  strength,  agility,  and  ease  of 
body,  as  well  as  the  external  conveniences  which  could 
promote  these — wealth,  power,  honors,  the  respect  and 
esteem  of  those  we  live  with — were  naturally  pointed 
out  to  us  as  things  eligible,  and  of  which  the  possession 
was  preferable  to  the  want.  On  the  other  hand,  sickness, 
infirmity,  unwieldiness,  pain  of  body,  as  well  as  all  the 
external  inconveniences  which  tend  to  occasion  or  bring 
on  any  of  them — poverty,  the  want  of  authority,  the 
contempt  or  hatred  of  those  we  live  with — were,  in  the 
same  manner,  pointed  out  to  us  as  things  to  be  shunned 
and  avoided.  In  each  of  those  two  opposite  classes  of 
objects,  there  were  some  which  appeared  to  be  more  the 
objects  either  of  choice  or  rejection  than  others  in  the 
same  class.  Thus,  in  the  first  class,  health  appeared 
evidently  preferable  to  strength,  and  strength  to  agility  ; 
reputation  to  power,  and  power  to  riches.  And  thus, 
too,  in  the  second  class,  sickness  was  more  to  be  avoided 
than  unwieldiness  of  body,  ignominy  than  poverty,  and 
poverty  than  the  loss  of  power.  Virtue,  and  the  pro- 
priety of  conduct,  consisted  in  choosing  and  rejecting  all 


HISTORY    OF    MORAL    PHILOSOPHY.  37 

different  objects  and  circumstances  according  as  they 
were  by  nature  rendered  more  or  less  the  objects  of 
choice  or  rejection  ;  in  selecting  always  from  among  the 
several  objects  of  choice  presented  to  us  that  which  was 
most  to  be  chosen  when  we  could  not  obtain  them  all ; 
in  selecting,  too,  out  of  the  several  objects  of  rejection 
offered  to  us,  that  which  was  least  to  be  avoided  when  it 
was  not  in  our  power  to  avoid  them  all.  By  choosing 
and  rejecting  with  this  just  and  accurate  discernment, 
by  thus  bestowing  upon  every  object  the  precise  degree 
of  attention  it  deserved,  according  to  the  place  which  it 
held  in  this  natural  scale  of  things,  we  maintained, 
according  to  the  Stoics,  that  perfect  rectitude  of  conduct 
which  constituted  the  essence  of  virtue.  This  was 
what  they  called  to  live  consistently,  to  live  according 
to  nature,  and  to  obey  those  laws  and  directions  which 
nature,  or  the  Author  of  Nature,  had  prescribed  for  our 
conduct." 

From  the  philosophy  of  the  Stoics  I  shall  proceed  to 
one  of  a  very  different  complexion,  the  sect  of  Epicurus. 

Epicurus  was  the  son  of  a  schoolmaster  and  a  woman 
who  gained  her  livelihood  by  curing  diseases  by  magic, 
driving  away  ghosts,  and  performing  other  services 
equally  marvelous.  The  circumstance  which  first 
turned  his  attention  to  philosophy  is  said  to  have  been, 
that,  on  reading  the  works  of  Hesiod,  he  consulted  his 
master  upon  the  meaning  of  the  word  chaos.  The  peda- 
gogue, unable  to  solve  the  point,  instead  of  scourging 
him  for  asking  too  difficult  a  question,  as  is  commonly 
the  custom,  referred  him  to  the  philosophers  for  an 
explanation.  To  the  philosophers,  as  soon  as  an  oppor- 
tunity offered,  he  had  recourse  for  more  information 
than  he  could  gain  from  schoolmasters,  and  acquired  all 
he  could  glean  from  Pamphilus  a  Platonist,  Nausiphanes 
a  Pythagorean,  and  Pyrrho  the  Skeptic.  He  was  at 
Athens  also  a  student,  while  Xenocrates  taught  in  the 
Academy,  and  Theophrastus  in  the  Lyceum.  When 
Cicero  therefore  calls  him  a  self-taught  philosopher,  we 
are  not  to  understand  by  that  expression  that  he  was 
never  instructed  in  the  tenets  of  other  masters,  but  that 
his  system  of  philosophy  was  the  result  of  his  own  reflec- 


38  LECTURE    II. 

tions,  after  comparing  the  doctrines  of  other  sects.  In 
the  thirty-second  year  of  his  age,  he  opened  a  school  at 
Mytilene.  Not  satisfied,  however,  with  the  narrow 
sphere  of  philosophical  fame  which  this  obscure  situation 
afforded  him,  he  repaired  to  Athens,  purchased  a  pleasant 
garden,  where  he  took  up  his  residence  and  taught  his 
philosophy ; — and  hence  his  disciples  were  called  the 
philosophers  of  the  garden.  The  friendship  of  the 
Epicurean  sect  is  described  by  Cicero,  in  his  treatise 
"  De  Finibus,"  as  unexampled  in  the  history  of  human 
attachments  ;  and  Valerius  Maximus  relates  a  memora- 
ble example  of  friendship  between  Polycrates  and  Hip- 
poclides,  two  disciples  of  this  sect.  It  is  impossible, 
however,  to  receive  these  accounts  without  some  sort  of 
mistrust.  A  set  of  graminivorous  metaphysicians,  living 
together  in  a  garden,  and  employing  their  whole  time  in 
acts  of  benevolence  toward  each  other,  carries  with  it 
such  an  air  of  romance,  that  I  am  afraid  it  must  be  con- 
siderably lowered,  and  rendered  more  tasteless,  before  it 
can  be  brought  down  to  the  standard  of  credibility  and 
the  probabilities  of  real  life.  At  least  we  may  be  tolera- 
bly sure,  that  if  half  a  dozen  metaphysicians,  such  as 
metaphysicians  are  in  these  modern  days,  were  to  live  in 
a  garden  in  Battersea  or  Kew,  that  their  friendship 
would  not  be  of  very  long  duration  ;  and  their  learned 
labors  would  probably  be  interrupted  by  the  same  reasons 
which  prevented  Reaumur's  spiders  from  spinning, — 
they  fabricated  a  very  beautiful  and  subtile  thread,  but, 
unfortunately,  they  were  so  extremely  fond  of  fighting, 
that  it  was  impossible  to  keep  them  together  in  the  same 
place. 

There  are  two  totally  opposite  accounts  of  the  lives 
and  doctrines  of  the  Epicureans : — the  one,  that  they 
only  recommended  and  pursued  such  sort  of  pleasures  as 
they  deemed  not  inconsistent  with  that  virtuous  tran- 
quillity which  was  the  chief  end  of  their  philosophy  ;  the 
opposite  opinion  goes  to  fix  upon  them  the  charge  of 
shameless  and  unlimited  debauchery.  Unfortunately, 
all  the  writings  of  Epicurus  (by  far  the  most  prolific 
writer  among  the  Grecian  philosophers)  have  perished, 
with  the  exception  of  a  very  few  fragments  dispersed 


HISTORY    OF    MORAL    PHILOSOPHY.  39 

among  ancient  authors.  It  is  probable,  however,  that 
both  accounts  are  true  ;  for  it  must  be  observed,  that  the 
philosophy  of  Epicurus,  in  its  most  favorable  garb,  con- 
tains within  itself  a  principle  of  rapid  corruption  :  it  is 
precisely  that  which  may  inhabit  a  great  and  vigorous 
mind  with  safety,  but  which,  dispersed  abroad  among  all 
the  medley  of  human  minds  and  dispositions,  would 
shoot  up  into  rank  licentiousness. 

Epicurus  held  that  there  are  three  instruments  of 
judgment — sense,  preconception,  and  passion.  Sense, 
he  was  of  opinion,  could  never  be  deceived ;  though  the 
judgment  founded  upon  the  representations  of  the  senses 
might  be  either  true  or  false.  For  instance,  if  a  person 
of  imperfect  sight  were  to  mistake  the  head  of  a  post  for 
the  head  of  a  cow,  Epicurus  would  contend  that  the  eye 
conveyed  to  the  mind  a  notice  of  every  ray  of  light  that 
acted  upon  it  in  this  instance,  and  that  the  mind  had 
determined  hastily  upon  the  evidence  presented  to  it. 
Every  opinion  he  thought  to  be  true  which  was  attested, 
or  not  contradicted,  by  the  senses.  Lastly,  opinions 
might  be  received  as  true,  wrhich  were  established  by 
some  immediate  inference  from  the  senses  :  as,  if  I  see 
any  thing  move,  it  is  a  plain  proof  there  must  be  a 
vacuum  in  nature,  to  admit  of  the  motion  of  any  body 
whatever ;  and  the  contrary  opinion,  that  there  is  no 
vacuum,  can  not  be  true,  because  it  contradicts  the  evi- 
dence of  the  senses.  By  preconceptions  he  appears  to 
have  meant  what  we  denominate  general  ideas,  which 
are  formed,  he  contends,  either  by  the  repeated  im- 
pression of  the  senses ;  by  enlarging  or  diminishing  a 
sensation,  as  in  the  instances  of  a  giant  or  of  a  dwarf; 
by  resemblance,  as  of  an  unknown  city  to  one  which  has 
been  seen ;  or  by  composition,  as  in  the  instance  of  a 
centaur.  Preconception  is  necessary  to  enable  us  to 
inquire,  reason,  or  judge  of  any  thing.  Truths  not  self- 
evident,  are  to  be  deduced  from  some  manifest  precon- 
ception ;  or,  where  the  relation  of  ideas  is  obscure,  it  is 
to  be  made  manifest  by  the  intermediate  use  of  some 
acknowledged  principle. 

This  philosopher  considered  the  pleasures  and  pains 
of  the  bodv  to  be  the  sole  objects  of  desire  and  aversion. 


40  LECTURE    II. 

That  they  were  always  the  object  of  desire  and  aversion 
he  considered  to  be  a  matter  of  fact  too  notorious  to 
require  proof;  but  he  contended  that  they  were  also  the 
sole  original  object.  The  pains  and  pleasures  of  the 
mind,  he  contended,  were  all,  in  the  first  instance,  de- 
rived from  those  of  the  body,  though  they  afterward 
became  incomparably  more  powerful  and  important, 
because  the  body  feels  but  for  the  present  moment, — the 
mind  joys  and  grieves,  by  anticipation  and  by  recollec- 
tion ;  therefore  to  keep  the  mind  easy  was  at  all  times 
the  most  important  object.  The  virtues  he  thought  of 
no  importance  for  themselves,  but  for  their  consequences. 
For  example,  to  save  a  guinea,  when  you  may  spend  it 
agreeably,  is  not  in  itself  desirable,  for  it  is  rather  painful 
at  the  moment ;  but  it  is  important  only  in  its  conse- 
quences. To  be  temperate,  and  abstain  from  a  particular 
food,  is  a  virtue  not  agreeable  while  it  is  exercised,  but 
by  the  consequences  it  produces  after  it  is  exercised. 
Thus  with  justice :  if  one  boy  abstain  from  taking  away 
another  boy's  pie,  it  is  not  because  he  receives  any  pleas- 
ure from  not  taking  away  the  pie,  but  because  he  wishes 
to  avoid  certain  consequences  which  would  follow  the 
seizure.  Such  was  the  idea  Epicurus  had  of  virtue ;  and 
before  I  conclude  I  shall  offer  a  very  few  remarks  on  his 
system. 

In  the  first  place,  the  plan  of  solving  all  the  phenomena 
of  the  passions  by  the  dread  of  bodily  pain,  and  the  love 
of  bodily  pleasure,  is  very  simple  and  beautiful ;  and  I 
have  no  doubt  that  several  of  the  passions  commonly 
supposed  to  be  original,  may  be  proved  to  be  put  in  mo- 
tion by  these  springs  of  the  machine :  but  it  will  not  do 
for  all; — for  how  shall  we  explain  compassion  by  it? 
I  learn  what  pain  is  in  another  man  by  knowing  what  it 
is  in  myself ;  but  I  might  know  this  without  feeling  the 
pity.  I  might  have  been  so  constituted  as  to  rejoice  that 
another  man  was  in  agony :  how  can  you  prove  that  my 
own  aversion  to  pain  must  necessarily  make  me  feel  for 
the  pain  of  another  ?  I  have  a  great  horror  of  breaking 
my  own  leg,  and  I  will  avoid  it  by  all  means  in  my 
power ;  but  it  does  not  necessarily  follow  from  thence 
that  I  should  be  struck  with  horror  because  vou  have 


HISTORY    OF    MORAL    PHILOSOPHY.  41 

broken  yours.  The  reason  why  we  do  feel  horror,  is, 
that  nature  has  superadded  to  these  two  principles  of 
Epicurus  the  principle  of  pity ;  which,  unless  it  can  be 
shown  by  stronger  arguments  to  be  derived  from  any 
other  feeling,  must  stand  as  an  ultimate  fact  in  our  na- 
ture. Did  Epicurus  mean  to  say  that  all  the  pleasures 
of  the  mind,  as  they  were  originally  derived  from  the 
body,  still  kept  the  body  in  view  ?  and  that,  as  we  only 
began  to  value  respect  from  the  advantages  we  gained 
by  it,  so  we  only  continue  to  regard  it  for  the  same  rea- 
son ?  If  this  be  the  doctrine  of  Epicurus,  it  betrays  an 
extraordinary  ignorance  of  our  nature ;  because  we  all 
know  there  are  innumerable  objects  which  we  began  to 
value  for  their  advantages,  which  we  learn  to  value  for 
themselves ;  and  for  respect,  men  commonly  value  the 
thing  itself  so  much  more  than  its  beneficial  consequences, 
that  they  every  day  are  found  casting  away  all  that  fame 
can  give,  in  order  to  preserve  fame  itself.  I  might  say  a 
great  deal  more  upon  the  philosophy  of  Epicurus  ;  but  I 
must  not  forget  one  of  his  habits  in  philosophizing,  which 
I  dare  say  will  meet  with  the  hearty  approbation  of  every 
body  here  present ;  and  that  was,  never  to  extend  any 
single  lecture  to  an  unreasonable  period :  in  imitation  of 
which  Epicurean  practice,  I  shall  conclude,  and  finish 
the  history  of  moral  philosophy  at  our  next  meeting. 


LECTURE    III 

HISTORY   OF   MORAL   PHILOSOPHY.— PART   II. 
[imperfect.] 

If  the  very  confined  plan  of  these  Lectures  would 
allow  of  such  an  extended  review  of  the  history  of  moral 
philosophy,  the  proper  method  of  resuming  the  subject 
from  the  concluding  period  of  the  schools  purely  Grecian 
would  be,  to  trace  the  introduction  of  Grecian  philosophy 
into  the  East,  from  the  expedition  of  Alexander,  and  the 
effects  it  produced  upon  the  mythology  of  the  oriental 
theology.  The  same  philosophy  was  introduced,  by  the 
same  conquest,  into  Egypt ;  and  the  greatest  encourage- 
ment given  to  learning  and  learned  men  by  the  suc- 
cessors of  Alexander  in  that  government.  When  the 
remains  of  the  Pythagorean  school  fled  from  Italy  into 
Egypt,  an  alliance  took  place  between  the  Egyptian, 
Platonic,  and  Pythagorean  systems ;  and  from  this  hete- 
rogeneous compound,  philosophy  and  theology  assumed 
a  new  form. 

When  the  philosophers,  under  Ptolemy  Physcon,  were 
driven  from  Egypt  into  Asia,  upon  their  return  the  ori- 
ental philosophy  was  added  to  the  mass,  and  the  confusion 
of  opinions  was  completed  in  the  Eclectic  sect. 

Into  Rome,  the  Grecian  philosophy  was  not  introduced 
without  considerable  difficulty.  For  when  Carneades, 
Diogenes,  and  Critolaus  were  sent  to  Rome  on  an  em- 
bassy from  the  Athenians,  and  the  Roman  youths  of 
distinction  flocked  together  to  hear  the  philosophers,  it 
was  thought  necessary,  after  dismissing  the  ambassadors 
honorably,  to  pass  a  decree  that  no  philosopher  should 
reside  at  Rome.      Soon  after,  however,  when   Scipio 


HISTORY    OF    MORAL    PHILOSOPHY.  43 

Africanus,  Laelius,  and  Furius  visited  Athens  in  a  mili- 
tary capacity,  they  frequented  the  schools  of  the  philos- 
ophers, and  became  acquainted  with  their  doctrines. 
The  example  of  these  noble  Romans  was  soon  followed 
by  many  others.  Lucullus,  who  was  instructed  in  philos- 
ophy by  Antiochus  the  Ascalonite,  erected  a  magnificent 
library  at  his  house,  which  he  opened  for  the  use  of  the 
learned  ;  and,  by  that  means,  allured  many  philosophers 
of  every  different  sect  to  settle  at  Rome.  Sylla,  after 
the  siege  of  Athens,  first  brought  to  light  the  writings  of 
Aristotle,  and  conveyed  them  to  Rome.  From  the  period 
of  Lucullus  and  Sylla,  every  one  of  the  Grecian  sects 
had  its  patrons  and  followers  among  the  Romans ;  but, 
so  far  as  I  know,  no  original  sect  of  philosophy  ever 
sprang  up  among  that  people. 

The  philosophy  which,  a  little  before  the  Christian 
era,  emanated  from  the  remains  of  the  doctrine  of  Zoro- 
aster, had  many  followers  in  various  parts  of  Asia.  Of 
these,  not  a  few  passed  over  into  Egypt,  and  contami- 
nated not  only  the  Pagan,  but  the  Christian  and  Jewish 
schools ;  producing  among  the  Jews  the  Cabalistic 
mysteries,  and  among  the  Christians  the  Gnostic  heresies. 
Among  the  Jews,  the  Samaritans  embraced  a  mixed 
system  of  religion,  partly  Jewish  and  partly  Pagan  ;  and, 
adding  to  these  certain  doctrines  of  the  oriental  school, 
produced  the  heresy  of  Simon  Magus.  The  interpreta- 
tion of  the  law  called  Cabala  was  brought  over  from 
Egypt  to  Palestine  by  Simeon  Shettach.  After  this, 
there  were  learned  men  among  the  Jews  who  studied 
Pagan  philosophy,  such  as  Josephus  the  historian.  Of 
the  origin  of  the  sects  which  existed  before  the  destruc- 
tion of  Jerusalem — the  Sadducees,  Pharisees,  Essenes, 
and  Therapeutics — we  know  little  or  nothing. 

After  the  destruction  of  Jerusalem,  their  learned  men 
who  escaped  the  general  ruin  erected  schools  at  Jamnia, 
Tiberias,  and  Lydda ;  and  among  the  Jewish  schools 
erected  at  Babylon,  the  Babylonian  Talmud  was  com- 
piled. The  traditionary  mystical  wisdom,  so  called  by 
special  indulgence,  was  studied  by  the  learned  Jews  till 
near  the  tenth  century.  At  this  time,  the  Jews  perse- 
cuted by  the  Saracens,  fled  into  Spain  ;  where  they  paid 


44  LECTURE    III. 

considerable  attention  to  Pagan  learning,  and  translated 
among  other  things,  the  writings  of  Aristotle,  from  the 
Arabic  into  the  Hebrew  language. 

When  Mohammed  first  appeared  among  the  Arabians, 
philosophy  could  hardly  be  said  to  exist  among  them. 
At  the  beginning  of  the  dynasty  of  the  Abbassides  they 
first  began  to  show  a  disposition  for  science ;  and  under 
Al  Mammon,  in  the  ninth  century,  learning  and  philos- 
ophy of  every  kind  flourished  among  them.  These  were 
greatly  aided  by  the  numerous  Christian  libraries  which 
fell  into  their  possession.  Public  schools  were  instituted 
and  long  flourished  at  Bagdad,  Bassora,  and  Bochara ; 
and,  as  the  empire  of  the  Saracens  extended  over  the 
West,  they  carried  with  them  their  zeal  for  the  promotion 
of  knowledge. 

The  dark  ages  of  Europe  may  be  divided  into  four 
periods — from  Alcuin,  wTho  was  the  cause  of  the  renewal 
of  public  instruction  ;  2dly,  the  period  of  Roscelin,  who 
gave  rise  to  the  celebrated  controversy  between  the 
Nominalists  and  Realists.  The  third  period,  in  which 
Aristotelian  metaphysics,  obscured  by  passing  through 
the  Arabian  channel,  were  applied,  with  wonderful  sub- 
tilty,  to  the  elucidation  of  Christianity,  begins  with  Albert 
and  ends  with  Durand.  The  fourth  period  is  the  arrival 
of  the  learned  Greeks  who  wrere  expelled  from  Constan- 
tinople. This  wTas  the  period  in  which  the  Genius  of 
Science  rose  up  from  the  dust  and  ashes,  and,  mindful 
of  his  past  glory,  began  to  resume  his  ancient  dominion 
over  the  human  mind. 

"  Behold !  eacli  Muse,  in  Leo's  golden  days, 
Starts  from  her  trance,  and  trims  her  wither'd  bays. 
.Rome's  ancient  Genius,  o'er  its  ruins  spread, 
Shakes  off  the  dust,  and  rears  his  rev'rend  head. 
With  sweeter  notes  each  rising  temple  rung ; 
A  Raphael  painted,  and  a  Vida  sung." 

The  first  great  name  after  this  period  of  the  restoration 
of  learning  was  that  of  Lord  Bacon  ;  to  whom,  however, 
we  are  more  indebted  for  the  opportunity  of  applying 
those  rules  of  philosophizing  which  he  laid  down  for  the 
pursuit  of  physical  science,  than  for  any  thing  he  did 
directly  for  morals.    It  is  supposed  that  Descartes  nevei 


HISTORY    OF    MORAL    PHILOSOPHY.  45 

read  any  of  Bacon's  writings ;  though  there  is  good 
reason  to  believe  that  we  are  indebted  to  them  for  the 
original  idea  of  Grotius's  work  on  natural  law,  which  he 
afterward  carried  into  execution  at  the  earnest  solicita- 
tion of  the  famous  Nicholas  Paresi.  "  We  must  consider 
Grotius,"  says  Barbeyrac  (in  his  preface  to  PufFendorf), 
"we  must  consider  Grotius  as  the  first  who  broke  the 
ice :  nor  can  we,  without  the  blackest  envy,  or  the 
grossest  ignorance,  deny  to  him  an  extraordinary  clear- 
ness of  understanding,  exquisite  discernment,  profound 
meditation,  universal  erudition,  a  prodigious  extent  of 
reading,  a  sincere  love  of  truth,  and  a  laborious  applica- 
tion to  study,  among  various  interruptions,  and  the  vast 
variety  of  duties  imposed  upon  him  by  situations  of  the 
highest  trust  and  importance.'/ 

"  The  wonder  of  Grotius,"  says  Barbeyrac,  "  is,  that 
his  good  sense  has  been  able,  in  so  astonishing  a  manner, 
to  remedy  the  darkness  and  deficiencies  of  his  times ;" 
and  this  is  certainly  the  real  and  proper  defense  of,  and 
the  just  style  of  criticism  for,  every  writer. 

Two  very  eminent  men,  Mr.  Hume  and  Mr.  Home 
Tooke,  have  spoken  with  a  great  spirit  of  depreciation, 
and  even  of  contempt,  of  John  Locke.  I  confess  there 
is  a  sort  of  ingratitude  of  science  in  this,  which  it  is  very 
difficult  to  bear  with  patience.  It  is  truly  painful  to  see 
the  great  teachers  of  mankind  insulted  and  disdained  by 
those,  whose  very  talents  and  sagacity  have  been  fostered 
by  their  labors.  It  would  be  as  uncandid  and  as  unjust 
that  those  who  are  now  cultivating  the  earth  with  so 
much  skill  and  science,  should  sneer  at  the  coarse  but 
necessary  labors  of  their  ancestors,  who  cleared  the  im- 
penetrable woods,  drained  the  stagnant  marshes,  banked 
out  the  encroachments  of  the  sea,  and,  by  the  sweat  and 
the  struggles  of  industry,  left  the  earth  ready  for  the  re- 
finements of  science.  To  whatever  height  we  may  carry 
all  human  knowledge,  I  hope  we  shall  never  forget  those 
energetic  and  enterprising  men  who  met  the  difficulty  in 
its  rudest  shape.  That  Grotius  will  never  be  forgotten, 
as  thef  ***** 

f   [The  conclusion  of  this  sentence  has  been  on  the  outside  cover  of  the 
MS.  book,  and  torn  off] 


46  LECTURE    III. 

After  this  period,  the  schools  of  Moral  Philosophy  may 
be  divided  into  those  of  Locke,  Descartes,  and  Leibnitz, 
originating  in  England,  France,  and  Germany. 

Descartes  was,  at  an  early  period  of  life,  so  disgusted 
with  the  uncertainty  which  appeared  to  him  to  hang 
over  every  science  which  he  attempted  to  cultivate,  that 
he  quitted  a  life  of  study  altogether,  and  turned  soldier 
and  man  of  pleasure.  So  strong,  however,  is  the  original 
bent  and  direction  of  men's  minds,  that  the  first  instance 
of  his  prowess  recorded  in  the  Dutch  army  is,  an  attack 
upon  an  eminent  mathematician  at  Breda,  for  some 
erroneous  doctrines  which  Descartes  conceived  him  to 
entertain  respecting  that  science.  From  the  Dutch  ser- 
vice, Descartes  entered  into  the  Bavarian  army ;  and 
there,  instead  of  attending  to  any  subjects  connected 
with  his  profession,  be  busied  himself  in  endeavoring  to 
comprehend  the  Rosicrucian  mysteries.  At  last,  Des- 
cartes quitted  the  military  profession,  retired  to  Holland, 
and  published  there  his  system  of  philosophy,  which  soon 
engaged  the  attention  of  learned  men  in  every  quarter 
of  Europe.  In  this  country  the  Cartesian  system  ob- 
tained such  a  degree  of  credit,  that  Sir  Charles  Caven- 
dish, brother  to  the  Duke  of  Newcastle,  gave  him  an 
invitation  to  settle  here  ;  and  Charles  the  First  gave  him 
reason  to  expect  a  very  liberal  appointment.  Descartes 
would  certainly  have  accepted  the  offer  if  the  civil  wars 
had  not  immediately  afterward  banished  all  considera- 
tion for  learning  and  learned  men.  He  afterward 
accepted  an  invitation  from  Christina,  Queen  of  Sweden, 
and,  in  four  months  after  his  arrival,  fell  a  sacrifice  to 
the  rigor  of  the  climate. 

The  account  of  Descartes's  philosophy  I  shall  read  to 
you  from  Dr.  Reid's  "  Intellectual  Powers,"*  where  it  is 
stated  with  admirable  precision,  and  commented  on  with 
great  good  sense.  "  Descartes,  about  the  middle  of  the 
last  century,  dissatisfied  with  the  materia  prima,  the 
substantial  forms,  and  the  occult  qualities  of  the  Peripa- 
tetics, conjectured  boldly  that  the  heavenly  bodies  of 
our  system  are  carried  round  by  a  vortex  or  whirlpool 
of  subtile  matter,  just  as  straws  and  chaff  are  carried 
*»  Vol.  i  p.  147. 


HISTORY    OF    MORAL    PHILOSOPHY.  47 

round  in  a  tub  of  water.  He  conjectured,  that  the  soul 
is  seated  in  a  small  gland  in  the  brain,  called  the  pineal 
gland:  that  there,  as  in  her  chamber  of  presence,  she 
receives  intelligence  of  every  thing  that  affects  the 
senses,  by  means  of  a  subtile  fluid  contained  in  the  nerves, 
called  the  animal  spirits ;  and  that  she  dispatches  these 
animal  spirits,  as  her  messengers,  to  put  in  motion  the 
several  muscles  of  the  body,  as  there  is  occasion.  By 
such  conjectures  as  these,  Descartes  could  account  for 
every  phenomenon  in  nature,  in  such  a  plausible  manner, 
as  gave  satisfaction  to  a  great  part  of  the  learned  world 
for  more  than  half  a  century. 

"  Such  conjectures  in  philosophical  matters  have  com- 
monly got  the  name  of  hypotheses  or  theories ;  and  the 
invention  of  an  hypothesis,  founded  on  some  slight 
probabilities,  which  accounts  for  many  appearances  in 
nature,  has  been  considered  as  the  highest  attainment 
of  a  philosopher.  If  the  hypothesis  hang  well  together, 
is  embellished  by  a  lively  imagination,  and  serve  to 
account  for  common  appearances,  it  is  considered  by 
many  as  having  all  the  qualities  that  should  recommend 
it  to  our  belief,  and  all  that  ought  to  be  required  in  a 
philosophical  system. 

"  There  is  such  proneness  in  men  of  genius  to  invent 
hypotheses,  and  in  others  to  acquiesce  in  them  as  the 
utmost  which  the  human  faculties  can  attain  in  philoso- 
phy, that  it  is  of  the  last  consequence  to  the  progress  of 
real  knowledge,  that  men  should  have  a  clear  and  distinct 
understanding  of  the  nature  of  hypotheses  in  philosophy, 
and  of  the  regard  that  is  due  to  them.     , 

"  Although  some  conjectures  may  have  a  considerable 
degree  of  probability,  yet  it  is  evidently  in  the  nature  of 
conjecture  to  be  uncertain.  In  every  case,  the  assent 
ought  to  be  proportioned  to  the  evidence  ;  for  to  believe 
firmly  what  has  but  a  small  degree  of  probability,  is  a 
manifest  abuse  of  our  understanding.  Now,  though  we 
may,  in  many  cases,  form  very  probable  conjectures 
concerning  the  works  of  men,  every  conjecture  we  can 
form  with  regard  to  the  works  of  God,  has  as  little 
probability  as  the  conjectures  of  a  child  with  regard  to 
the  works  of  a  man." 


48  LECTURE    III. 

The  merits  of  Descartes  are  briefly  these : — that  he 
revolted  against  the  Aristotelian  tyranny,  and  overthrew 
it ;  that  he  was  the  first  philosopher  who  drew  a  fixed 
and  definite  line  between  matter  and  spirit;  that  he  was 
the  first  philosopher  who  taught  mankind  that  the  only 
source  of  this  sort  of  knowledge  was  an  accurate  con- 
templation of  the  human  mind.  Malebranche,  Locke, 
Berkeley,  were  all  taught  this  lesson  by  Descartes  ;  he, 
as  well  as  Lord  Bacon,  laid  this  foundation,  and  led  us 
into  that  tract  which  all  wise  men  now  allow  to  be  the 
only  one  in  which  we  can  expect  success. 

The  most  illustrious  of  his  disciples  were  Bossuet, 
Fenelon,  and  Malebranche  ;  and  the  extraordinary  sys- 
tem of  Spinosa  has,  I  fancy,  some  connection  with 
Cartesianism.  Malebranche  was  clearly  the  forerunner 
of  Berkeley  :  so  much  so,  indeed,  that  there  is  not  a 
single  argument  of  the  bishop's  but  what  may  be  found 
stated  with  equal  force  in  Malebranche.  His  system 
briefly  was,  that  there  is  no  material  world,  and  that  all 
our  ideas  of  a  material  world  we  gain  from  the  intimate 
presence  of  the  Deity  in  our  own  minds.  The  system 
of  Malebranche  was  adopted  by  an  English  clergyman  of 
the  name  of  Norris,  in  an  essay  which  he  calls  the 
"  Theory  of  the  Intellectual  World,"  and  which  he  pub- 
lished in  2  vols.,  in  the  year  1701. 

In  England,  the  Cartesian  philosophy,  though  his 
name  was  held  in  high  estimation,  never  took  any  root : 
in  fact,  the  English,  for  the  first  half-century  of  the 
Cartesian  philosophy,  were  so  occupied  with  civil  war, 
hypocrisy,  and  profligacy,  that  they  had  no  leisure  to 
attend  to  systems  of  philosophy.  In  France,  its  native 
country,  the  Cartesian  moral  philosophy  has  entirely 
yielded  to  the  philosophy  of  Locke  ;  and  his  natural 
philosophy  to  that  of  Newton :  and  Germany  is  at  pres- 
ent entirely  divided  between  the  old  schools  of  Wolfe 
and  Leibnitz,  and  the  modern  system  of  the  celebrated 
Professor  Kant. 

M.  Degerando,  in  the  true  French  style,  endeavors  to 
show  that  Locke  was  preceded  in  many  of  his  discoveries 
by  Gassendi,  a  Frenchman,  whose  philosophy  was  made 
known  to  this  countrv  by  Walter  Charleton,  thirty-six 


HISTORY    OF    MORAL    PHILOSOPHY.  49 

years  before  the  first  publication  of  Locke's  Essay.  I 
am  wholly  incapable  of  answering  this  charge,  as  I  am 
entirely  ignorant  of  Gassendi's  writings  ;  but  I  should 
strongly  suspect,  from  the  simplicity  and  honesty  of  Mr. 
Locke's  character,  he  would  not  have  borrowed  from 
any  other  writer  any  material  part  of  his  doctrines, 
without  the  most  scrupulous  avowal  of  the  source  from 
whence  it  was  derived. 

Locke  agreed  with  Descartes  in  thinking  that  we 
perceive  by  means  of  some  intermediate  agent  between 
the  object  and  the  mind ;  he  disagreed  with  him  as  to 
the  origin  of  our  ideas, — Descartes  being  of  opinion  that 
some  were  innate,  and  Locke  conceiving  that  they  were 
all  derived  either  from  our  senses  or  from  the  power  we 
possess  of  reflecting  on  the  operations  of  our  understand- 
ings. They  differed  with  regard  to  the  essence  of 
matter  and  mind.  Descartes  believed  that  the  essence 
of  mind  consisted  in  thought,  and  had  a  very  singular 
idea  that  the  essence  of  matter  consisted  in  extension. 
Locke  very  properly  determined  that  the  word  essence 
has  no  meaning  ;  and  that  we  know  nothing  about  the 
essence  of  either  one  or  the  other,  and  never  can  know 
any  thing  at  all  about  essences. 

With  respect  to  innate  ideas,  it  has  been  objected  to 
Mr.  Locke  that  he  has  not  sufficiently  explained  the 
meaning  of  the  word.  Does  he  mean  connate  ideas, 
that  develop  themselves  as  soon  as  we  are  born  ?  if  so, 
the  dispute  is  quite  insignificant.  If  Mr.  Locke  mean  by 
the  word  idea  (as  I  believe  he  may  be  shown  to  do)  any 
impression  or  passion  of  our  nature,  does  it  not  seem 
very  strange  to  deny  that  self-love,  anger,  and  pity  are 
innate,  though  some  of  these  do  not  develop  themselves 
at  the  immediate  period  of  our  birth  ?  In  his  account 
of  the  formation  of  abstract  general  ideas,  Mr.  Locke 
has  been,  as  is  generally  thought,  completely  confuted  by 
Bishop  Berkeley ;  in  that  notion  which  he  held,  in 
common  with  all  his  predecessors,  of  an  intermediate 
agent  between  the  mind  and  the  outer  world,  he  has 
been  refuted  by  Dr.  Reid.  His  book  upon  the  Use  and 
Abuse  of  Language  is  generally  considered  as  one  of  the 
most  valuable  in  his  Essay.     The  wonder  is,  that  so  few 

C 


50  LECTURE    HI. 

important  errors  should  be  discovered  in  a  work  which 
takes  up  the  science  of  the  human  mind  at  so  barbarous 
a  period,  and  which  has  stood  for  a  century  the  critical 
inquisition  of  the  ablest  men  in  the  keenest  and  most 
inquisitive  of  all  the  branches  of  knowledge. 

One  of  the  most  extraordinary  men  who  appeared  after 
Locke  was  Berkeley,  Bishop  of  Cloyne  in  Ireland ;  of 
whom  Pope  says,  that  there  was  given 

"  To  Berkeley  every  virtue  under  Heaven  ;" 

and  of  whom  Bishop  Atterbury  said,  that,  "before  he 
saw  that  gentleman,  he  did  not  think  that  so  much  un- 
derstanding, so  much  knowledge,  so  much  innocence, 
and  so  much  humility,  had  been  the  portion  of  any  but 
angels."  To  give  a  clear  notion  of  the  bishop's  theory, 
we  must,  for  a  moment,  advert  to  Mr.  Locke's  doctrines 
on  the  same  subject.  He  thought,  for  instance,  that 
there  were  outward  objects  ;  some  intermediate  agents 
coming  from  that  outward  agent,  which  excited  the  idea 
in  the  mind :  and,  lastly,  that  there  was  the  mind  itself. 
For  instance,  that  there  was  a  moon,  an  image  coming 
from  the  moon,  an  idea  excited  by  that  image,  and  a  mind 
in  which  that  image  existed.  Now,  says  Bishop  Berkeley, 
you  allow  that  you  do  not  see  the  objects  themselves,  but 
only  certain  representatives  of  those  objects  ;  therefore, 
as  you  never  see  the  objects  themselves,  what  proof  have 
you  of  their  existence  ?  You  have  none  ;  and  all  your 
notions  on  these  subjects  are  fallacious.  There  is  no 
sun,  no  moon,  no  stars,  nor  earth,  nor  sea, — they  are  all 
notions  of  the  mind.  Such  was  the  system  of  one  of  the 
most  pious  men  that  ever  lived  ;  and  a  system  by  which 
he  hoped  to  put  an  end  forever  to  all  skepticism  and 
irreligion. 

In  this  sketch  the  name  of  Arthur  Collier  must  not  be 
omitted.  He  was  Rector  of  Langford  Magna,  near  Sal- 
isbury, and  published  a  book,  in  1713,  which  he  calls 
"  The  Universal  Key,  or  a  New  Inquiry  after  Truth ; 
being  a  Demonstration  of  the  Non-existence  or  Impossi- 
bility of  an  External  World."  He  is  a  very  acute  man, 
but  a  very  bad  writer ;  and,  what  is  singular  enough,  he 
had  never  read  Berkeley's  theory  (which  had  then  been 


HISTORY    OF    MORAL    PHILOSOPHY.  51 

published  three  years),  or  Locke's  Essay  (which  had  been 
published  twenty-four  years).  That  two  writers,  Berke- 
ley and  Collier,  should  meet  together  at  such  a  con- 
clusion, without  the  smallest  knowledge  of  each  other's 
intentions,  is  certainly  a  very  extraordinary  fact  in  the 
history  of  philosophy. 

The  outward  world  being  thus  annihilated,  Mr.  Hume 
determined  to  cure  men  of  the  absurdity  of  supposing 
they  had  any  minds  ;  and  turned  the  same  sort  of  argu- 
ment to  their  destruction.  As  thought  is  only  a  repre- 
sentative of  mind,  and  as  you  never  see  the  original,  how 
do  you  know  there  is  any  original  ?  And  so,  in  this 
manner,  the  rash  and  extraordinary  hypothesis,  that  man 
is  a  being  made  up  of  body  and  mind,  was  detected,  ex- 
posed, and  ridiculed. 

In  answer  to  these  metaphysical  lunacies,  Dr.  Reid 
has  contended,  that,  for  all  reasoning,  there  must  be  some 
first  principles  from  whence  such  reasoning  originates, 
and  which  must  necessarily  be  incapable  of  proof  or 
they  would  not  be  first  principles ;  and  that  facts  so 
irresistibly  ingrafted  upon  human  belief  as  the  existence 
of  mind  and  matter,  must  be  assumed  for  truths,  and 
reasoned  upon  as  such.  All  that  these  skeptics  have  said 
of  the  outer  and  the  inner  world  may,  with  equal  justice, 
be  applied  to  every  other  radical  truth.  Who  can  prove 
his  own  personal  identity  ?  A  man  may  think  him- 
self a  clergyman,  and  believe  he  has  preached  for  these 
ten  years  last  past;  but  I  defy  him  to  offer  any  sort 
of  proof  that  he  has  not  been  a  fishmonger  all  the 
time.f  #*#### 

ever  doubt  that  all  reasoning  must  end  in  arbitrary  be- 
lief;— that  we  must,  at  last,  come  to  that  point  where  the 
only  reply  can  be,  "  /  am  so, — this  belief  is  the  constitu- 
tion of  my  nature, — God  willed  it."  I  grant  that  this 
reasoning  is  a  ready  asylum  for  ignorance  and  imbecility, 
and  that  it  affords  too  easy  a  relief  from  the  pain  of  ren- 
dering a  reason  :  but  the  most  unwearied  vigor  of  human 
talents  must  at  last  end  there ;  the  wisdom  of  ages  can 

f  [Two  pages  of  manuscript  are  here  wanting.] 


52  LECTURE    III. 

get  no  further ;  here,  after  all,  the  porch,  the  garden,  the 
Academy,  the  Lyceum,  must  close  their  labors. 

Much  as  we  are  indebted  to  Dr.  Reid  for  preaching 
up  this  doctrine,  he  has  certainly  executed  it  very  badly  ; 
and  nothing  can  be  more  imperfect  than  the  table  of  first 
principles  which  he  has  given  us, — an  enumeration  of 
which  is  still  a  desideratum  of  the  highest  importance. 
The  skeptics  may  then  call  the  philosophy  of  the  human 
mind  merely  hypothetical ;  but  if  it  be  so,  all  other 
knowledge  must  of  course  be  hypothetical  also ;  and  if  it 
be  so,  and  all  is  erroneous,  it  will  do  quite  as  well  as  re- 
ality, if  we  keep  up  a  certain  proportion  in  our  errors : 
for  there  may  be  no  such  things  as  lunar  tables,  no  sea, 
and  no  ships  ;  but,  by  falling  into  one  of  these  errors  after 
the  other,  we  avoid  shipwreck,  or,  what  is  the  same  thing, 
as  it  gives  the  same  pain,  the  idea  of  shipwreck.  So 
with  the  philosophy  of  the  human  mind :  I  may  have  no 
memory,  and  no  imagination, — they  may  be  mistakes ; 
but  if  I  cultivate  them  both,  I  derive  honor  and  respect 
from  my  fellow-creatures,  which  may  be  mistakes  also ; 
but  they  harmonize  so  well  together,  that  they  are  quite 
as  good  as  realities.  The  only  evil  of  errors  is,  that  they 
are  never  supported  by  consequences ;  if  they  were,  they 
would  be  as  good  as  realities.  Great  merit  is  given  to 
Dr.  Reid  for  his  destruction  of  what  is  called  the  ideal 
system,  but  I  confess  I  can  not  see  the  important  conse- 
quences to  which  it  has  yet  led. 

Oswald,  Beattie,  and  a  few  more  Scotch  writers,  who 
are  very  little  known  or  read,  have  supported  that  appeal 
to  the  common  sense  of  mankind  in  favor  of  first  prin- 
ciples which,  in  my  very  humble  opinion,  was  so  wisely 
and  philosophically  instituted  by  Dr.  Reid,  and  which 
hereafter  promises  to  rear  up  the  strongest  bulwark 
against  the  skeptical  school. 

About  the  year  1730,  the  Rev.  Mr.  Gay  published  a 
dissertation  on  the  fundamental  principle  of  virtue.  It 
was  not  published  in  a  separate  form,  but  prefixed  to 
Archdeacon  Law's  translation  of  Archbishop  King's 
"  Origin  of  Evil."  In  this  dissertation  Mr.  Gay  asserted 
the  possibility,  and  explained  the  mode,  of  deducing  all 
our  intellectual  pleasures  and  pains,  from  the  principle 


HISTORY    OF    MORAL    PHILOSOPHY.  53 

of  association.  It  was  this  publication  of  Mr.  Gay  which 
first  induced  Dr.  Hartley  to  turn  his  thoughts  to  the  sub- 
ject ;  and  the  result  of  his  studies,  was  a  conviction  that 
not  only  all  our  intellectual  pleasures  and  pains,  but  that 
all  the  phenomena  of  memory,  imagination,  volition,  and 
reasoning,  may  be  referred  to  this  principle :  so  that 
nothing  more  is  requisite  to  make  a  man  what  he  is,  but 
a  sentient  principle,  with  this  single  property,  and  the  in- 
fluence of  such  circumstances  as  he  has  been  actually 
exposed  to.  As  Dr.  Hartley  was  excited  to  this  part  of 
his  system  by  Mr.  Gay's  dissertation,  he  was  led  to  the 
next  and  more  reprehensible  part  of  it  by  a  query  of  Sir 
Isaac  Newton's,  at  the  end  of  his  Optics."  "  Do  not  the 
rays  of  light,"  says  Sir  Isaac,  "  in  falling  upon  the  bottom 
of  the  eye,  excite  vibrations  in  the  tunica  retinae  ?  and 
do  not  these  vibrations,  propagated  along  the  solid  fibers 
of  the  optic  nerves  into  the  brain,  cause  the  sense  of  see- 
ing ?"  This  was  enough  for  Dr.  Hartley's  system,  which 
contends  that  the  mind  receives  its  notices  of  things  by 
means  of  a  vibration  excited  in  the  nerve  and  brain. 
When  the  excitement  is  considerable,  he  calls  it  a  vibra- 
tion ;  when  less,  it  is  a  vibratiuncle.  I  need  not  add, 
that  all  this  is  a  mere  hypothesis,  without  a  shadow  of 
proof;  and  that  if  it  were  true  it  would  leave  the  con- 
nection between  body  and  mind  just  as  unintelligible  as 
it  was  before.  This  part,  however,  of  Dr.  Hartley's  sys- 
tem has  nothing  to  do  with  the  other,  and  if  it  were  en- 
tirely brushed  away  would  leave  his  doctrines  of  associa- 
tion untouched.  These  doctrines  have  certainly  made 
no  great  fortune  on  the  Continent ;  and  none  in  Scot- 
land, where  every  man  is  a  metaphysician.  Their  most 
able  defender  here  has  been  Dr.  Priestley,  who  has  left 
out  Hartley's  vibrations,  ameliorated  his  language,  and 
(to  use  an  expression  which  will  be  very  well  understood 
at  the  Royal  Institution)  has  completely  "  Riwifordized" 
his  system.  I  have  read  his  book,  and,  in  spite  of  the 
disgust  which  the  style  excites  even  in  this  renovated 
state,  it  appeared  to  me  impossible  not  to  allow  that  the 
principle  of  association  is  a  much  more  extensive  key  to 
the  great  phenomena  of  our  nature  than  any  previous 
writer  had  considered  it  to  be.     At  the  same  time  (I  say 


54  LECTURE     III. 

it  with  deference)  I  could  not  help  thinking  that  he  fail- 
ed considerably  in  the  universal  and  systematic  applica- 
tion of  this  principle ;  and  that  the  entire  building  he 
wished  to  display  to  the  eye  was  erected  with  great  in- 
equalities in  strength  and  skill.  I  shall  barely  mention 
the  names  of  Price  and  Priestley,  without  offering  any 
comment  upon  their  writings ;  and  having  so  done,  I  be- 
lieve I  have  nearly  completed  the  list  of  all  the  very  con- 
siderable writers  who  have  appeared  since  the  time  of 
Locke  in  this  country. 

May  I  be  allowed  to  add  to  this  splendid  list  the  names 
of  two  gentlemen  now  living, — to  one  of  whom  the  world 
may  fairly  look  for  no  common  improvement  of  this  sci- 
ence, and  from  the  other  of  whom  it  has  already  received 
it :  I  mean  Sir  James  Mackintosh  and  Mr.  Dugald 
Stewart.  In  my  expectations  from  the  first  of  these 
gentlemen,  those  will  not  think  I  am  too  sanguine  who 
have  witnessed  the  circumference,  the  order,  and  the 
connection  of  his  knowledge,  his  zeal  in  prosecuting  it, 
his  perspicuity  in  detailing  it,  and  that  extraordinary 
mixture  of  enterprise  and  judgment  which  makes  him  as 
new  and  original  as  he  is  judicious  and  safe.  Of  the 
latter  gentleman,  if  I  am  not  misled  by  the  suavity  of  his 
manners,  the  spotless  integrity  of  his  life,  and  the  mar- 
velous effects  of  that  eloquence  to  which  many  others 
here  can  bear  witness  as  well  as  myself, — if  all  these 
circumstances  do  not  mislead  me,  I  think  I  may  say  that 
never  any  man  has  taken  up  this  science  of  the  human 
mind  with  such  striking  and  comprehensive  views  of 
man's  nature.  You  begin  with  thinking  you  are  taking 
up  a  curious,  yet  barren,  speculation ;  and  you  find  it, 
under  the  masterly  hand  of  this  writer,  gradually  unfold- 
ing itself  into  a  wide  survey  of  passions,  motives,  and 
faculties,  made  in  chaste  language,  watched  over  with 
correct  taste,  and  adorned  with  beautiful  illustrations. 
He  is  ever  drawing  from  those  discussions  which,  in  the 
hands  of  common  men,  are  mere  scholastic  subtilties, 
principles  useful  in  the  conduct  of  life,  and  valuable  for 
the  improvement  of  the  understanding.  He  is  the  first 
writer  who  ever  carried  a  feeling  heart  and  a  creative 
fancy  into  the  depth  of  these  abstract  sciences,  without 


HISTORY    OF    MORAL    PHILOSOPHY.  55 

rendering  them  a  mass  of  declamatory  confusion.  He 
has  not  rendered  his  metaphysics  dry  and  disgusting, 
like  Reid ;  he  has  not  involved  them  in  lofty  obscurity, 
like  Plato ;  nor  has  he  poisoned  them  with  impiety,  like 
Hume.  Above  all,  he  has  that  invaluable  talent  of  in- 
spiring the  young  with  the  love  of  knowledge,  the  love 
of  virtue,  and  that  feeling  of  modest  independence  which 
has  ever  been  the  ornament  of  his  conduct.  I  have  been 
his  pupil,  and  have  received  kindness  at  his  hands.  Per- 
haps I  am  overrating  his  merit ;  but  I  am  truly  sincere 
when  I  say,  that  I  know  no  reason  why  he  is  not  ranked 
among  the  first  writers  of  the  English  language,  except 
that  he  is  still  alive ;  and  my  most  earnest  and  hearty 
wish  is,  that  that  cause  of  his  depreciation  may  operate 
for  many,  many  years  to  come ! 

I  ought,  in  point  of  time,  to  have  mentioned  Hobbes 
before ;  but  as  I  could  not  connect  him  with  the  school 
of  Locke,  I  was  forced  to  put  him  out  of  his  proper  place. 
Hobbes  lived  in  the  reign  of  Charles  the  First,  and  was, 
at  one  period  of  his  life,  very  much  connected  with  Des- 
cartes. He  offered  to  that  philosopher  some  comments 
on  one  of  his  publications,  which  Descartes  treated  with 
great  contempt;  and  they  separated.  Though  he  in- 
curred the  contempt  of  Descartes,  he  excited  the  aston- 
ishment of  Leibnitz  by  his  profundity,  who  always  used 
to  speak  of  him  as  one  of  the  deepest  thinkers  that  ever 
existed.  For  the  origin  of  our  ideas  he  referred  entirely 
to  sensation ;  and  divided  all  human  faculties  into  con- 
ception and  imagination.  Thinking,  according  to  Hobbes, 
is  the  succession  of  one  imagination  after  another, — 
which  may  be  either  irregular,  or  regulated  with  a  view 
to  some  end.  Truth  and  falsehood  are  attributes,  not  of 
things,  but  of  language.  The  intellect,  peculiar  to  man, 
is  a  faculty  arising  from  speech ;  and  the  use  of  reason 
is  the  deduction  of  remote  consequences  from  the  defini- 
tions of  terms.  Science  is  the  knowledge  of  these  con- 
sequences. 

There  are  in  animals  two  kinds  of  motion,  one  vital 
and  involuntary,  the  other  animal  and  voluntary.  The 
latter,  if  it  tend  toward  an  object,  is  appetite ;  if  it  re- 
cede from  it,  is  aversion  :   and  the  object  in  the  former 


56  LECTURE    III. 

case  is  said  to  be  good ;  in  the  latter,  evil  Appetite  is 
attended  with  pleasure,  aversion  with  pain.  In  delibera- 
tion, the  last  impulse  is  will;  success  in  obtaining  its 
object,  enjoyment.  His  notion  of  virtue  was,  that  the 
law  of  the  civil  magistrate  was  the  sole  standard  of  right 
and  wrong;  that  there  was  no  natural  distinction  be- 
tween them  antecedent  to  the  institution  of  positive  law. 
This  last  part  of  his  system  was  answered  and  refuted 
by  Dr.  Cud  worth,  in  his  "Immutable  Morality."  Hobbes, 
though  a  man  of  the  highest  order  of  faculties,  is  a  most 
pernicious  and  paradoxical  writer  upon  almost  all  sub- 
jects. As  a  mathematician  he  is  generally  accused  of 
ignorance ;  his  morality  is  subversive  of  all  morals,  as 
his  policy  is  of  all  free  government.  His  works  pro- 
duced, at  the  time,  the  most  prodigious  effect ;  they  are 
now  read  by  a  few  speculative  men,  and  he  is  entirely 
passed  away  from  common  notice, — as  every  writer  always 
will  pass  away,  whatever  be  his  talents,  who  thinks  him- 
self mightier  than  nature,  and  would  expunge  from  the 
hearts  of  men  their  primordial  and  irresistible  feelings. 

Having  said  all  I  have  to  say  of  English  moral  philos- 
ophers, it  may  not  be  unacceptable  to  give  some  short 
account  of  the  progress  of  Mr.  Locke's  doctrine  in 
France.  Pere  Buffier,  after  Gassendi  (whom  I  have 
already  mentioned),  was  the  first  person  in  France  who 
developed  any  philosophical  views  analogous  to  those  of 
Mr.  Locke.  He  was  the  first  person  who  attempted  an 
enumeration  of  first  principles  to  serve  as  a  basis  for  all 
moral  reasoning ;  but  though  he  has  the  merit  of  being 
the  first  to  enforce  this  method  of  philosophizing,  he  has, 
in  the  execution  of  it,  been  still  more  unfortunate  than 
his  disciple  Dr.  Reid,  and  has  multiplied  his  catalogue  of 
fundamental  truths  beyond  all  bounds  of  good  sense  and 
discretion.  The  Essay  upon  Abstraction  by  Dumarsais, 
is  an  admirable  abridgment  of  Locke's  Essay.  The 
reputation  of  Locke  was  very  w7idely  disseminated  by 
Voltaire.  Vauvenargues,  whose  maxims  are  so  little 
read  in  this  country,  appears  to  have  studied  him ;  but 
Condillac  is  the  person  who  has  almost  naturalized 
Locke  in  France.  He  has  expanded  and  exemplified 
Locke's  doctrines  of  sensation.     Locke  only  perceived 


HISTORY    OF    MORAL    PHILOSOPHY.  57 

a  very  little  chapter  of  the  law  of  association,  and  treated 
it  as  a  mere  disease  of  the  mind ;  Condillac  has  shown 
its  effects  upon  the  entire  system  of  our  knowledge. 
Locke  showed  that  language  registers  our  ideas ;  Con- 
dillac points  out  to  us  that  it  analyzes  them,  and  is  an 
indispensable  instrument  in  reasoning.  In  short,  we 
must  unquestionably  consider  Condillac  as  the  most 
valuable  disciple  and  commentator  that  Locke  has  yet 
had.  The  effect  of  his  book  in  disseminating  the  philos- 
ophy of  Locke  among  the  French,  has  been  prodigious. 
D'Alembert  undoubtedly,  in  his  intellectual  philosophy, 
is  a  pupil  of  the  Locke  school ;  and  to  his  name  may  be 
added  those  of  Condorcet,  Charles  Bonnet,  and  Dege- 
rando, — who  wrote  his  Essay  upon  Natural  Signs,  when 
a  common  soldier  in  the  army  of  General  Moreau. 

Germany  had  principally  received  its  tone  of  moral 
philosophy  from  Leibnitz  and  Wolfe,  before  this  last 
revolution  effected  by  Professor  Kant.  Perhaps  no  man 
that  ever  lived  combined  in  so  eminent  a  degree  as 
Leibnitz,  the  faculty  of  invention  with  the  habit  of  labor. 
His  theories  abound  with  boldness  and  originality,  as 
any  one  who  has  cast  a  glance  upon  them  may  easily 
perceive ;  and  he  had  acquired  more  knowledge,  taking 
it  in  extent  and  accuracy,  than  any  man,  perhaps,  that 
ever  existed.  His  habits  of  labor  were  so  intense,  that 
he  sometimes  was  known  to  sit  in  his  study  for  forty- 
eight  hours  together;  and  for  whole  months  confined 
himself  to  his  books,  without  any  other  interruptions 
than  those  which  hunger  and  sleep  rendered  absolutely 
necessary.  His  system  was,  that  Nature,  in  granting 
organs  to  animals,  had  made  them  capable  of  distinct 
perception,  memory,  and  imagination.  Man  is  distin- 
guished from  inferior  animals  by  the  power  of  knowing 
necessary  and  eternal  truths :  it  is  from  this  power,  that 
we  are  capable  of  those  reflex  acts  by  which  we  are  con- 
scious of  our  own  existence,  and  form  the  ideas  of  being, 
substance,  and  God.  Our  reasonings  are  raised  upon 
two  great  principles :  the  one,  that  of  consistency,  by 
means  of  which  we  judge  that  to  be  false  which  involves 
a  contradiction,  and  that  to  be  true  which  is  the  reverse 
of  the  false ;  the  second,  is  that  of  sufficient  reason,  which 


58  LECTURE    III. 

admits  nothing  to  exist  without  a  sufficient  reason  for  its 
existence,  though  that  reason  may  not  be  known  to  us. 
In  the  united  state  of  soul  and  body,  each  follows  its 
own  laws;  but  they  agree  together  by  means  of  &  pre- 
established  harmony  between  all  substances,  which 
renders  each  a  representation  of  the  universe.  The 
soul,  he  says,  acts  according  to  the  law  of  final  causes, 
or  by  motives ;  the  body,  according  to  efficient  causes, 
or  by  motion :  and  between  these  two  kingdoms  of 
nature  there  is  a  harmony,  originally  established,  and 
continually  preserved,  by  the  power  of  God.  Such  is  a 
very  summary  view  of  the  theory  of  the  great  Leibnitz, 
whom  both  Locke  and  Molyneux  evidently  consider  as 
a  very  overrated  man,  and  whose  system  Voltaire  calls 
"  line  bonne  plaisanterie." 

To  Leibnitz,  and  his  successor  Wolfe,  succeeded  an 
endless  list  of  German  metaphysicians,  whose  systems  I 
am  so  far  from  being  acquainted  with,  that  I  am  too 
ignorant  to  pronounce  their  authors'  names — Baum- 
garten,  Meyer,  Crousaz,  Plouquet,  Mendelsohn  (the  an- 
tagonist of  Hume),  and  Eberhard,  Platner,  and  names 
without  any  vowels  or  any  end. 

This  superb  list  is  terminated  by  Professor  Kant,  the 
explanation  of  whose  philosophy  I  really  can  not  attempt : 
first,  from  some  very  faint  doubts  whether  it  is  explica- 
ble ;  next,  from  a  pretty  strong  conviction  that  this  good 
company  would  not  be  much  pleased  to  sit  for  another 
half-hour  and  hear  me  commenting  on  his  twelve  cate- 
gories ;  his  distinctions  between  empirical,  rational,  and 
transcendental  philosophy ;  his  absolute  unity,  absolute 
totality,  and  absolute  causation ;  his  four  reflective  con- 
ceptions, his  objective  nonmenal  reality,  his  subjective 
elements,  and  his  pure  cognition.  I  am  very  far  from 
saying  that  these  terms  are  without  their  share  of  relish 
and  allurement ;  I  must  only  decline,  myself,  the  inter- 
pretation of  them,  and  refer  those  whose  curiosity  they 
may  excite,  to  the  exposition  of  Villiers  and  Degerando, 
in  their  lately-published  history  of  philosophy. 

I  can  not  conclude  this  lecture  without  remarking  the 
high  destiny  and  splendid  fortune  of  this  country,  in 
giving  to  the  world  its  great  masters  of  philosophy.    We 


HISTORY    OF    MORAL    PHILOSOPHY.  59 

will  allow  to  other  countries  the  most  splendid  efforts  of 
genius  directed  to  this  object ;  but  they  have  passed  away, 
and  are  now  no  more  than  beautiful  and  stupendous 
errors.  We  will  give  up  to  them  the  mastery  in  all  that 
class  of  men  who  can  diffuse  over  bad  and  unsocial 
principles,  the  charms  of  eloquence  and  wit;  but  the 
great  teachers  of  mankind,  big  with  better  hopes  than 
their  own  days  could  supply, — who  have  looked  back- 
ward to  the  errors,  and  forward  to  the  progress  of  man- 
kind,— who  have  searched  for  knowledge  only  from 
experience,  and  applied  it  only  to  the  promotion  of 
human  happiness, — who  have  disdained  paradox  and 
impiety,  and  coveted  no  other  fame  than  that  which  was 
founded  upon  the  modest  investigation  of  truth, — such 
men  have  sprung  from  this  country,  and  have  shed  upon 
it  the  everlasting  luster  of  their  names.  Descartes  has 
perished,  Leibnitz  is  fading  away;  but  Bacon,  and 
Locke,  and  Newton  remain,  as  the  Danube  and  the 
Alps  remain : — the  learned  examine  them,  and  the  igno- 
rant, who  forget  lesser  streams  and  humbler  hills,  remem- 
ber them  as  the  glories  and  prominences  of  the  world. 
And  let  us  never,  in  thinking  of  perpetuity  and  duration, 
confine  that  notion  to  the  physical  works  of  nature,  and 
forget  the  eternity  of  fame !  God  has  shown  his  power 
in  the  stars  and  the  firmament,  in  the  aged  hills  and  in 
the  perpetual  streams ;  but  he  has  shown  it  as  much,  in 
the  minds  of  the  greatest  of  human  beings !  Homer  and 
Virgil  and  Milton,  and  Locke  and  Bacon  and  Newton, 
are  as  great  as  the  hills  and  the  streams ;  and  will  endure 
till  heaven  and  earth  shall  pass  away,  and  the  whole 
fabric  of  nature  is  shaken  into  dissolution  and  eternal 
ashes. 


LECTURE    IV. 

ON  THE  POWERS   OF   EXTERNAL   PERCEPTION. 
[imperfect.] 

I  promised,  in  the  beginning  of  these  lectures,  to  be 
very  dull  and  unamusing ;  and  I  am  of  opinion  that  I 
have  hitherto  acted  up  to  the  spirit  of  my  contract ;  but 
if  there  should  perchance  exist  in  any  man's  mind  the 
slightest  suspicion  of  my  good  faith,  I  think  this  day's 
lecture  will  entirely  remove  that  suspicion,  and  that  I 
shall  turn  out  to  be  a  man  of  unsullied  veracity ! 

A  list  of  great  and  splendid  names,  such  as  I  gave  in 
my  last  lecture,  of  itself  was  some  obstacle  to  the  com- 
pletion of  my  promise.  I  have  no  doubt,  however,  but 
that  I  overcame  that  obstacle  with  sufficient  success; 
and,  of  course,  that  aided  as  I  am  by  the  subject  to-day, 
it  will  be  still  more  perfect,  and  my  fortune  more  com- 
plete. It  is  some  encouragement  to  me,  however,  in  the 
execution  of  my  plan,  to  perceive  the  extreme  patience 
with  which  subjects  are  listened  to,  upon  other  occasions, 
which  in  their  nature  are  not  capable  of  eloquence,  and 
in  which  all  ornament  would  be  impertinent  and  mis- 
placed. I  think  I  have  observed,  that  the  ornaments 
called  for  here  are  established  facts  and  fair  reasonings ; 
and  that  the  object  for  which  both  sexes  pass  an  hour  in 
this  place  is,  to  hear  the  investigation  of  some  important 
subject,  made  with  some  care,  and  conducted  without 
any  pretense.  Without  offering,  therefore,  any  other 
apology  in  future,  for  the  dryness  and  barrenness  of 
the  subject,  but  trusting  to  the  candor  and  good  sense 
of  those  who  hear  me,  I  shall  at  once  proceed  upon  my 
subject. 


ON    THE    POWERS    OF    EXTERNAL    PERCE  I'TluN.  61 

Every  one  knows  that  the  senses  are  five  number, 
Smell,  Taste,  Hearing,  Feeling,  and  Seeing.  The  nostril, 
the  eye,  and  the  ear,  are  affected  by  objects  at  a  distance 
through  the  instrumentality  of  light,  air,  or  the  thin 
element  which  emanates  from  odorous  bodies.  The 
senses  of  taste  and  feeling  are  commonly,  if  not  always, 
affected  by  actual  contact  with  the  bodies  themselves. 

In  the  dissection  of  the  human  body,  there  are  found 
thin,  white,  minute  filaments  penetrating  every  part  of  it 
in  every  direction.  Every  one  of  these,  let  its  ramifica- 
tions be  ever  so  extensive,  can  at  last  be  distinctly 
traced  either  to  the  brain,  or  to  the  spinal  marrow,  which 
proceeds  immediately  from  the  brain,  and  is  of  course 
connected  with  it.  The  use  of  these  nerves  is,  to  convey 
notions  or  ideas  from  exterior  objects  to  the  brain ;  and 
if  this  communication  between  the  various  parts  of  the 
body  and  the  brain  be  intercepted  by  any  injury  done  to 
the  nerve  which  keeps  up  the  communication,  no  intelli- 
gence can  reach  the  understanding  from  that  part  of  the 
body.  For  instance,  at  present  I  feel  perfectly  well 
with  my  hand ;  but  if  the  great  nerve  that  runs  down 
my  arm  were  divided,  J  should  have  no  sort  of  feeling  in 
that  part  of  my  arm  below  which  the  separation  took 
place.  I  might  pierce  my  hand  with  a  knife,  or  burn  it 
with  fire,  without  having  the  smallest  sense  of  pain,  or 
being  in  the  least  degree  conscious  that  my  hand  was 
even  touched.  In  the  same  manner,  if  the  spinal  marrow 
be  injured,  all  the  parts  of  the  body  whose  nerves  fall 
into  that  great  channel  of  intelligence  below  the  part 
injured  become  absolutely  devoid  of  all  feeling  ;  and 
though  in  this  case  the  lower  extremities  do  not  mortify, 
they  are  dead  branches,  without  the  privilege  of  sensi- 
bility, or  the  enjoyment  of  any  of  the  functions  of  their 
healthy  condition ;  and  as  the  extremities  can  not  con- 
vey, in  the  case  of  an  injured  nerve,  any  intelligence  to 
the  understanding,  it  can  not  exercise  any  sort  of  power 
over  the  diseased  limb.  For  when  my  arm  (to  put  the 
case  I  before  cited)  is  injured,  and  can  not  feel,  it  can 
not  obey  the  will  ;  for,  however  I  may  wish  to  move  it, 
its  motion  is  utterly  impossible.  Therefore  a  nerve  not 
only  conveys  the  knowledge  of  outward  objects  to  the 


62  LECTURE    IV. 

mind,  but  it  conveys  the  decisions  of  the  will  to  the 
various  parts  of  the  body.  In  short,  to  use  a  very  trite 
and  obvious  simile,  the  brain  is  the  metropolis,  the  nerves 
are  paths  and  roads  to  it  from  every  part  of  the  animal 
frame,  the  greatest  of  which  is  the  spinal  marrow, 
absorbing  a  vast  number  of  lesser  communications  before 
it  is  terminated  in  the  grand  emporium  of  thought.  To 
carry  on  this  threadbare  simile  a  little  further,  we  may 
say,  that  the  information  thus  brought  to  the  brain,  is 
rapid  and  telegraphic  beyond  all  conception ;  the  obedi- 
ence rendered  to  its  commands,  dispersed  over  the  body, 
instant  and  profound ;  and  the  effects  of  a  very  short 
interruption  of  correspondence  so  fatal,  that  the  impor- 
tance of  the  region  thus  separated  is  forever  destroyed. 

Now,  then,  this  is  a  short  history  of  the  connection 
between  mind  and  body.  We  know  that  the  notion 
must  enter  by  one  of  the  senses,  we  know  it  must  be 
conveyed  by  a  nerve  to  the  brain,  and  there  our  knowl- 
edge ends !  All  beyond  this  is  mere  fiction  and  hy- 
pothesis. Whether  there  be  a  fluid  passing  through  the 
nerve,  as  was  long  supposed, — whether  the  nerve  excite 
vibrations  and  vibratiuncles  in  the  brain,  as  Newton 
queried,  and  Hartley  thought, — whether  the  pineal  gland 
be  the  seat  of  the  soul,  according  to  Descartes ;  or 
whether  it  lodge  in  the  oval  center  of  the  brain,  accord- 
ing to  Vieussens ;  or  whether,  as  Willis  contends, 
common  sense  is  lodged  in  the  corpora  striata,  and 
imagination  in  the  corpus  callosum, — all  these  are  the 
opinions  of  rash  or  ingenious  men,  without  any  founda- 
tion. What  additions  may  hereafter  be  made  to  these 
discoveries  it  is  impossible  to  say,  but  at  present  our 
knowledge  is  stopped  exactly  where  I  have  stated.  We 
know  the  entrance,  the  path,  and  the  place  of  destina- 
tion ;  the  mode  of  proceeding,  and  the  effects  after  it  has 
reached  its  goal,  we  do  not  know. 

There  are  two  common  errors  respecting  our  sensa- 
tions which  those  who  have  been  in  any  degree  accus- 
tomed to  these  sorts  of  speculations  will  hardly  remem- 
ber, and  those  who  have  not,  will  find,  perhaps,  some 
trifling  difficulty  in  correcting, — I  mean,  the  reference 
of  our  sensations  to  the  objects  which  cause  them,  and 


ON    THE    POWERS    OF    EXTERNAL    PERCEPTION.  63 

to  the  senses  which  convey  them.  I  say  that  I  feel  with 
my  hand,  and  that  I  see  with  my  eye  ;  but  what  are 
seeing  and  feeling  ?  They  are  affections  of  the  mind, 
not  of  the  body.  My  eye  conveys  to  me  the  notion  that 
this  paper  is  white,  and  my  hand  is  an  instrument  to 
inform  me  this  table  is  hard ;  but  the  notions  themselves 
exist  only  in  my  mind,  and  can  not  exist  in  my  eye  or  my 
hand,  which  are  mere  brute  matter,  and  quite  incapable 
of  intelligence.  There  are  many  things  which  we  can 
only  see  through  a  microscope,  but  it  would  be  very 
absurd  to  suppose  that  the  microscope  sees  ; — put  away 
the  microscope,  and  it  is  just  as  absurd  to  suppose  the 
eye  sees.  The  eye  is  a  mere  machine,  like  the  other,  to 
convey  knowledge  to  the  mind  ;  the  only  difference  is, 
when  we  use  a  microscope  we  use  two  optical  machines, 
when  we  use  the  eye  alone  we  employ  only  one.  If  we 
suppose  the  thought  itself  to  exist  in  the  mere  instrument 
of  thinking,  we  must,  in  the  case  of  feeling,  suppose 
mind  to  be  spread  over  all  the  body.  There  is  a  mind 
in  each  foot  and  in  every  finger,  and  we  kneel  upon 
mind  and  sit  down  upon  it ;  and  the  old  proverb,  "  many 
men,  many  minds,"  may  with  equal  propriety  be  asserted 
of  a  single  individual.  The  second  popular  mistake 
which  I  specified  is,  that  of  attributing  our  own  sensa- 
tions to  the  bodies  which  occasion  them.  If  I  speak  of 
the  smell  of  a  rose,  I  mean  that  that  flower  affects  my 
mind  through  the  organs  of  smelling  in  that  particular 
manner  ; — the  smell  is  not  in  the  rose,  it  is  in  my  mind ; 
there  is  an  unknown  cause  in  the  rose  which  excites  this 
feeling  of  the  mind  called  smell.  There  is  an  organ 
through  which  that  effect  is  produced ;  but  the  effect 
itself  is  in  my  mind.  Just  so,  the  color  is  not  in  the 
table,  for  the  word  color  means  nothing  more  than  an 
affection  of  my  mind  ;  but  there  is  an  unknown  cause  in 
this  wood  which  produces  that  effect  upon  my  mind 
through  the  medium  of  my  eye.  And,  in  general,  we 
must  always  carry  it  in  our  recollection,  that  in  speaking 
of  sensation,  we  are  speaking  of  what  exists  in  our 
minds  ;  and  that  when  we  refer  these  to  the  objects  by 
which,   or   the   instruments   through  which,   they   are 


64  LECTURE    IV. 

excited,  it  is  a  mere  fashion  of  speaking,  and  not  an 
accurate  statement  of  the  fact. 

I  decline  to  discuss  the  question  of  the  difference 
between  the  primary  and  secondary  qualities  of  bodies  ; 
and  I  assume,  with  Dr.  Reid,  the  existence  of  matter  as 
a  first  principle  not  proved  by  reason,  and  not  provable 
by  reason. 

Almost  all  the  senses  are  possessed  by  some  one 
animal  or  another,  in  greater  perfection  than  by  man, 
though  perhaps  there  is  none  that  inherits  such  excellence 
in  all  the  five  senses.  We  are  not  to  judge  of  the 
degree  of  sensation  with  which  nature  has  endowed  us 
from  the  blunted  condition  of  these  organs  in  a  state  of 
society.  An  American  Indian  has  such  an  acute  sight, 
that  he  can  discover  the  prints  of  his  enemies'  feet,  can 
ascertain  their  number  with  the  greatest  exactness,  and 
the  length  of  time  which  has  elapsed  since  their  passage  ; 
he  can  discover  the  fires,  and  hear  the  noises  of  his 
enemies,  when  no  sign  of  the  contiguity  of  any  human 
being  can  be  discovered  by  the  most  vigilant  European. 
Nothing  can  be  plainer  than  that  a  life  of  society  is  un- 
favorable to  all  the  animal  powers  of  man.  Such  a 
minute  and  scrupulous  exercise  of  his  senses  is  not 
necessary  to  his  safety  or  his  support,  and  he  gradually 
subsides  into  that  mediocrity  of  organs,  which  is  sufficient 
for  his  altered  condition.  One  of  the  immediate  effects 
of  civilization  is  to  render  such  excessive  bodily  perfec- 
tion entirely  useless.  A  Choctaw  could  run  from  here 
to  Oxford  without  stopping  :  I  go  in  the  mail  coach ; 
and  the  time  that  the  savage  has  been  employed  in 
learning  to  run  so  far,  I  have  employed  in  something 
else.  It  would  not  only  be  useless  in  me  to  run  like  a 
Choctaw,  but  foolish  and  disgraceful. 

An  irresistible  proof  of  the  vast  improvement  of  which 
the  senses  are  capable,  is  the  education  of  the  deaf  and 
dumb,  and  the  blind ;  which  proceeds  upon  the  principle 
that,  after  one  sense  is  taken  away,  the  others  may  be 
made  much  more  acute  in  their  exercise,  and  much  more 
extensive  in  their  employment.  The  sense  of  touch  be- 
came so  acute  in  Professor  Saunderson,  who  had  been 
blind  from  one  year  old,  that  he  could  discover  with  the 


ON    THE    POWERS    OF    EXTERNAL    PERCEPTION.  65 

greatest  exactness  the  slightest  inequality  of  surface,  and 
could  distinguish,  in  the  most  finished  works,  the  slight- 
est oversight  in  the  polish.  In  the  cabinet  of  medals  at 
Cambridge  he  could  single  out  the  Roman  medals  with 
the  utmost  exactness.  When  any  object  passed  before 
his  face,  though  at  some  distance,  he  discovered  it,  and 
eould  guess  its  size  with  considerable  accuracy.  When 
he  walked,  he  knew  when  he  passed  by  a  tree,  a  wall,  or 
a  house.  His  ear  had  become  so  accurate  from  habit, 
that  he  could  not  only  recognize  those  with  whom  he 
was  acquainted,  by  the  sound  of  their  voices,  but  could 
judge  with  the  utmost  accuracy  of  the  size  of  any  room 
into  which  he  was  conducted. 

The  most  singular  instance  of  this  substitution  of  one 
sense  for  another,  and  the  degree  of  perfection  to  which 
particular  senses  can  be  carried,  is  recorded  in  the  Trans- 
actions of  the  Manchester  Society,  from  whence  I  have 
taken  it.  "  John  Metcalf,  a  native  of  the  neighborhood 
of  Manchester,  became  blind,"  says  Dr.  Bew,  "  at  a  very 
early  age,  so  as  to  be  quite  unconscious  of  light  and  its 
various  effects.  This  man  passed  the  younger  part  of 
his  life  as  a  wagoner,  and  occasionally  as  a  guide  during 
the  night  in  intricate  roads,  when  the  tracks  were  cov- 
ered with  snow.  Strange  as  this  may  appear  to  those 
who  can  see,  the  employment  he  has  since  undertaken  is 
still  more  extraordinary ;  it  is  one  of  the  last  to  which 
we  should  ever  suppose  a  blind  man  would  turn  his  atten- 
tion ; — his  present  occupation  is  that  of  a  projector  and 
surveyor  of  highways  in  difficult  and  mountainous  parts. 
With  the  assistance  only  of  a  long  staff,  I  have  several 
times  met  this  man  traversing  the  roads,  ascending  preci- 
pices, exploring  valleys,  and  investigating  their  several 
extents,  forms,  and  situations,  so  as  to  answer  his  design 
in  the  best  manner.  The  plans  which  he  designs,  and 
the  estimates  which  he  makes,  are  done  in  a  manner  pe- 
culiar to  himself,  and  of  which  he  can  not  well  convey 
the  meaning  to  others.  His  abilities,  nevertheless,  in 
this  way  are  so  great,  that  he  finds  constant  employ- 
ment. Most  of  the  roads  over  the  Peak  in  Derbyshire 
have  been  altered  by  his  direction,  particularly  those  in 
the  vicinity  of  Buxton  ;  and  he  is  at  this  time  construct- 


66  LECTURE    IV. 

ing  a  new  one  between  Wilmslow  and  Congleton,  with  a 
view  to  open  a  communication  with  the  great  London 
road,  without  being  obliged  to  pass  over  the  mountains." 

To  these  very  remarkable  cases,  may  be  added  that 
of  Stanley  the  organist;  the  blind  at  Paris,  who  are 
taught  to  read,  write,  and  print ;  and  the  equally  extra- 
ordinary Institution  for  the  Deaf  and  Dumb,  which  I 
dare  say  many  persons  here  present  have  visited.  All 
these  valuable  and  useful  institutions,  which  do  honor  to 
the  ingenuity  and  humanity  of  man,  merely  avail  them- 
selves of  that  superfluity  of  senses  (if  I  may  use  the  ex- 
pression) which  nature  has  given  us,  and  make  those 
which  survive,  do  the  duties  of  that  which  is  deceased. 
It  seems,  at  first  sight,  very  singular  that  a  blind  child 
should  be  taught  to  read ;  but  observe  what  the  common 
process  is  with  every  child :  a  child  sees  certain  marks 
upon  a  plain  piece  of  paper,  which  he  is  taught  to  call  A, 
B,  C  ;  but  if  you  were  to  raise  certain  marks  in  relief 
upon  pasteboard,  as  you  may  of  course  do,  and  teach  a 
blind  child  to  call  these  marks  which  he  felt  A,  B,  C,  a 
blind  child  would  as  easily  learn  his  alphabet  by  his  fin- 
gers as  another  would  do  by  his  eyes,  and  might  go  on 
feeling  through  Homer  or  Virgil  as  we  do  by  persevering 
in  looking  at  the  book.  Just  in  the  same  manner,  I  should 
not  be  surprised  if  the  alphabet  could  be  taught  by  a  se- 
ries of  well-contrived  flavors  ;  and  we  may  even  live  to 
see  the  day  when  men  may  be  taught  to  smell  out  their 
learning,  and  when  a  fine  scenting  day  shall  be  (which  it 
certainly  is  not  at  present)  considered  as  a  day  peculiarly 
favorable  to  study. 

A  curious  question  may  be  agitated  as  to  the  resem- 
blance of  the  senses  to  each  other.  All  the  ideas  of  see- 
ing bear  a  resemblance  to  each  other,  and  all  of  hearing, 
and  so  forth ;  or  do  we  only  conceive  them  to  resemble 
each  other  because  they  enter  the  mind  by  the  same 
channel  ?  Is  there  any  more  resemblance  in  the  taste 
of  vinegar  and  the  taste  of  a  peach,  than  there  is  between 
the  taste  of  vinegar  and  the  sound  of  an  iEolian  harp  ? 
I  am  very  much  inclined  to  think  there  is  not ;  and  that 
the  only  reason  of  supposing  a  resemblance  is,  that  they 
affect  the  same  organ.     I  believe  there  is  a  much  great- 


ON    THE    POWERS    OF    EXTERNAL    PERCEPTION  67 

er  analogy  between  those  ideas  of  every  sense  which 
produce  a  similar  tone  of  mind,  whether  of  excitement, 
or  soothing,  or  dislike,  or  horror,  than  there  is  between 
ideas  of  the  same  sense  which  stand  in  very  different  de- 
grees of  favor  with  the  mind.  The  resemblance  seems 
to  be  much  more  intimate  between  soft  sounds,  fragrant 
smells,  smooth  surfaces,  pleasant  tastes,  and  refreshing 
colors,  than  between  soft  sounds  and  horrible  crashes, 
smooth  surfaces  and  lacerating  inequalities,  pleasant 
tastes  and  caustic  bitterness,  refreshing  color  and  sable 
gloom. 

In  mere  sensation,  the  mind  appears  to  be  very  nearly 
passive :  when  the  organ  is  in  a  free  and  healthy  state, 
it  is  impressed  by  outward  objects  without  any  choice  of 
ours.  Whoever  walks  out  into  the  country,  can  not 
avoid  seeing  the  color  of  the  grass  and  the  shape  of  the 
trees  to  which  his  eyes  are  directed.  He  has  not  sensa- 
tions because  he  chooses  to  have  them,  but  they  come 
upon  him  till  he  removes  the  organ,  and  for  a  time  de- 
prives it  of  its  powers. f  * 

%  %:  zfa  ^  %  ^p  ^p  tP 

One  of  the  most  important  branches  of  this  subject  of 
sensation  is,  the  distinction  between  those  sensations 
which  are  really  derived  from  the  sense  itself,  and  those 
which  are  connected  with  them  by  mere  association. 
We  say  we  hear  a  bell  ring  when  in  fact  it  is  utterly 
impossible  we  should  do  so,  for  a  bell  is  an  object  of 
sight  and  touch  ;  and  we  might  as  well  say  that  we 
heard  a  color,  or  heard  a  thick  substance.  The  fact  is, 
we  hear  only  a  sound,  which  constant  experience  has 
led  us  to  refer  to  a  bell  as  its  cause.  We  smell  that 
something  is  burning,  in  the  same  manner.  Burning  is 
an  object  of  sight,  and  can  not  be  smelt ;  but  that  odor 
can  be  smelt  wrhich  experience  has  taught  us  to  connect 
with  the  phenomena  of  burning.  So  that  what  we  are 
at  first  apt  to  'consider  and  to  call  simple  sensations  are 
in  fact  accompanied  by,  and  involved  with,  numberless 
other  sensations,  which  experience  has  combined  to- 
gether.    Our  senses  would  be  comparatively  of  small 

f  [Four  pages  of  manuscript  are  here  wanting.] 


68  LECTURE    IV. 

importance  to  us  but  for  these  rapid,  compound,  and 
indissoluble  associations  ;  so  that  a  man  becomes  to  have 
a  sort  of  sixth  sense,  compounded  of  all  the  others,  and 
exercising,  in  a  single  act,  their  aggregate  perfections. 
A  child  can  hear,  and  see,  and  feel,  as  well  as  a  man ; 
but  he  exercises  these  senses  without  connecting  them 
with  all  that  their  intelligences  imply.  The  case  is  pre- 
cisely the  same  with  men  skilled  in  any  art  or  profession, 
and  others  ignorant  of  it ; — the  difference  between  them 
is  in  those  intimate  associations  of  sensation  which  one 
has  formed  and  the  other  not.  I  can  see  out  at  sea  as 
well  as  a  sailor ;  but  he  pronounces  that  object  to  be  a 
three-decked  ship  in  which  I  can  neither  distinguish 
mast,  or  deck,  or  any  thing  else.  We  both  see  precisely 
the  same  thing, — a  brown  mass  of  a  certain  magnitude. 
It  was  to  him,  when  first  he  went  to  sea,  a  brown  lump 
also  ;  long  experience  has  taught  him,  that  this  is  the 
appearance  of  a  man-of-war.  I  have  had  no  experience, 
and  it  is  to  me  only  a  simple  sensation,  i"  see  only  the 
object;  he  sees  the  thing  signified.  There  are,  in  the 
case  of  vision,  a  prodigious  variety  of  sensations  which 
we  suppose  ourselves  to  derive  from  the  eye,  and  which 
are,  in  fact,  derived  from  the  touch.  It  will  appear  very 
singular  to  those  who  have  never  reflected  on  these  sub- 
jects, when  I  say,  that  we  can  neither  see  the  distance 
of  any  objects,  nor  their  size,  nor  their  figure ;  and  yet 
there  is  nothing  which  science  has  more  clearly  proved. 
The  eye  originally  sees  nothing  but  color  and  surface. 
A  man  born  blind  and  suddenly  restored  to  sight  would 
not  have  the  least  conception  of  the  distance  of  objects ; 
all  objects,  whether  far  or  near,  wrould  appear  to  be  near 
to  his  eye.  This  was  long  imagined  to  be  the  fact,  and 
was  afterward  proved  to  be  so,  in  the  memorable  case 
of  the  young  man  who  was  couched  by  Cheselden.  He 
actually  made  this  mistake,  and  conceived  the  pictures 
on  the  opposite  wall  to  be  quite  close  to  his  eye.  If  the 
eye  can  see  nothing  but  color  and  surface,  why  should 
the  alteration  of  color  and  surface  give  the  idea  of  dis- 
tance ?  A  color  half  as  bright,  and  a  surface  half  as 
great,  do  not  necessarily  imply  a  distance  proportion- 
ally greater.     We  might  have  been  so  constituted  as 


ON    THE    POWERS    OF    EXTERNAL    PERCEPTION.  69 

that  an  object  should  have  become  fainter  the  nearer  it 
approached.  The  fact  is,  we  have  determined  by  ex- 
perience that  these  signs  to  the  eye,  of  fainter  color  and 
diminished  surface,  are  inseparably  connected  with  dis- 
tance, and  that  bodies  are  nearer  to  the  touch  when  they 
are  brighter  to  the  eye :  therefore  the  moment  we  see 
brightness  we  think  of  proximity,  and  so  imagine  we 
see  that  a  thing  is  near ;  and  the  moment  the  color  be- 
comes confused  we  think  of  remoteness,  and  so  imagine 
we  see  that  a  thing  is  remote.  It  is  by  rendering  color 
more  languid  and  confused,  that  painters  can  represent 
objects  at  a  very  different  distance  upon  the  same  flat 
canvas.  The  mere  diminution  of  the  magnitude  of  an 
object  would  not  have  the  effect  of  making  it  appear  at 
a  greater  distance.  For  if,  in  a  cattle  piece,  the  artist 
were  to  make  one  cow  ten  times  as  little  as  all  the  rest, 
the  animal  would  by  no  means  appear  ten  times  as  dis- 
tant from  the  eye,  but  would  be  taken  for  a  calf  in  the 
foreground  instead  of  a  cow  in  the  distant  scenery. 

Dr.  Reid  quotes  a  very  curious  observation  made  by 
Bishop  Berkeley  in  his  travels  through  Italy  and  Sicily, 
which,  by  the  by,  I  rather  believe  he  performed  on  foot. 
He  observed  that,  in  those  countries,  cities  and  palaces 
seen  at  a  great  distance  appeared  to  him  nearer  by 
several  miles  than  they  really  were ;  and  he  very  judi- 
ciously imputed  it  to  this  cause, — that  the  purity  of  that 
air  gave  to  very  distant  objects  a  degree  of  brightness 
and  distinctness  which,  in  the  grosser  air  of  his  own 
country,  belonged  only  to  those  which  are  near.  It 
would  be  curious  to  know  whether  Italians  are  apt  to 
make  the  reverse  of  the  bishop's  observation  in  this 
country,  and  to  ascertain  what  the  apparent  distance  is, 
according  to  their  estimation,  from  London  to  Kensing- 
ton, during  a  thick  fog  in  this  pleasant  month  of  Decem- 
ber. This  mode  of  discovering  distance  by  the  distinct- 
ness or  indistinctness  of  color,  is  the  reason  why  we 
mistake  the  size  of  objects  in  a  fog.  A  little  gentleman 
who  understands  optics,  may  always  be  sure  to  enjoy  a 
temporary  elevation  in  a  fog  ;  and  by  walking  out  in  that 
state  of  the  weather,  will  be  quite  certain  of  being  taken 
for  a  man  six  feet  high  ;  for  the  indistinctness  of  color 


70  LECTURE    IV. 

first  makes  us  consider  him  to  be  at  a  much  greater 
distance  than  he  really  is,  and  then  a  man  who  appears 
so  big  at  the  supposed  distance  of  300  yards,  we  can  not 
but  judge  to  be  one  of  the  tallest  and  most  robust  of 
men.  Secondly,  another  mode  in  which  we  determine 
the  distance  of  objects,  is  by  changing  the  form  of  the 
eye.  Nature  has  given  us  the  power  of  adapting  this 
organ  to  certain  distances  by  contracting  one  set  of 
muscles,  and  to  other  distances  by  contracting  another 
set.  As  to  the  manner  in  which  this  is  done,  anatomists 
are  not  agreed ;  but  whatever  be  the  manner,  it  is  cer- 
tain that  young  people  have  commonly  the  power  of 
adapting  their  eyes  to  all  distances  of  the  object,  from 
six  or  seven  inches  to  fifteen  or  sixteen  feet,  so  as  to 
have  perfect  and  distinct  vision  at  any  distance  within 
these  limits.  Now,  place  an  object  at  the  distance  of 
six  inches  from  the  eye,  and  gradually  remove  it  to  six- 
teen or  seventeen  feet,  you  will  find  that  all  the  muscles 
of  the  eye  are  employed  all  that  time  in  altering  the 
shape  of  the  eye,  and  accommodating  it  to  different 
distances ;  so  that,  by  long  experience,  the  efforts  I  am 
compelled  to  make  in  order  to  see  at  these  different  dis- 
tances become  themselves  the  signs  of  these  distances ; 
and  if  any  person  were  wounded  in  these  muscles  about 
the  eye,  so  as  to  disturb  his  usual  efforts  to  obtain  dis- 
tinct vision,  he  would  lose  his  guide  of  distance,  and 
become  unable  to  see  as  well  as  before,  though  precisely 
the  same  appearances  would  be  presented  to  his  eye. 

A  third  mode  by  which  we  acquire  the  notion  of  dis- 
tance is,  the  inclination  of  the  eyes  toward  each  other. 
A  line  drawn  through  the  center  of  the  eye  to  the 
retina,  and  produced  beyond  it,  is  called  the  axis  of  the 
eye ;  and  it  is  plain  that  the  inclination  of  these  lines 
toward  each  other  must  vary  as  the  distance  of  the  ob- 
jects varies  toward  which  they  are  directed.  Of  this 
inclination  we  are  not  conscious ;  but  we  are  conscious 
of  the  effort  employed  in  making  it ;  and  this  effort,  as 
well  as  the  others  of  which  I  have  been  last  speaking, 
becomes  the  sign  of  the  distance  of  objects.  It  is  for 
this  reason  that  those  who  have  lost  the  sight  of  one  eye 
are  apt,  even  within  arm's  length,  to  make  mistakes  in 


ON    THE    POWERS    OF    EXTERNAL    PERCEPTION.  71 

the  distance  of  objects  which  are  easily  avoided  by  those 
who  see  with  two  eyes ;  though,  after  some  time,  in 
persons  blind  of  one  eye,  this  inclination  of  the  axes 
ceases  to  be  a  criterion  of  distance,  and  these  mistakes 
are  avoided.  This  inclination  of  the  optic  axes  is  the 
principal  obstacle  to  complete  deception  in  the  art  of 
painting.  The  coloring  (one  mode  by  which  we  deter- 
mine distance)  may  be  perfect,  and  may  give  us  the 
notion  of  an  object  being  at  the  distance  of  many  miles ; 
but,  unfortunately,  the  figure  of  the  eye,  and  u  the  incli- 
nation of  the  axes,  are  set  for  the  distance  of  two  or 
three  yards  (the  real  space  between  the  eye  and  the 
picture),  so  that  the  mind,  wanting  one  of  its  signs  of  dis- 
tance, is  far  from  being  completely  deceived.  In  order 
to  remove  this  defect,  connoisseurs  in  painting  look  at  a 
picture  with  one  eye,  through  a  tube,  which  excludes 
the  view  of  all  other  objects.  By  this  means,  the  incli- 
nation of  the  eyes  toward  each  other  (one  method  by 
which  we  judge  of  the  deception)  is  prevented.  Dr. 
Reid  proposes,  as  an  improvement,  this  method, — that 
the  aperture  of  the  tube  next  the  eye  should  be  as  small 
as  a  pin-hole ;  because  then  the  other  mode  of  judging 
of  distances,  the  conformation  of  the  eye,  is  avoided, 
and  we  have  no  means  left  of  judging  of  the  distances 
but  the  light  and  the  color,  which  are  in  the  power  of 
the  painter.  When  the  optic  axes  are,  on  account  of 
the  great  distance  of  objects,  nearly  parallel,  so  that  to 
look  at  an  object  still  more  distant  requires  no  fresh 
effort,  our  power  of  judging  of  distances  entirely  ceases. 
This  is  the  reason  why  the  sun,  moon,  planets,  and  fixed 
stars  appear  to  be  all  at  the  same  distance,  as  if  they 
touched  the  concave  surface  of  a  great  sphere.  The 
sphere  itself  is  at  that  distance  beyond  which  all  objects 
affect  the  eye  in  the  same  manner. 

Another  mode  in  which  we  determine  the  distance  of 
objects  is  by  referring  them  to  those  intervening  objects 
whose  distance  is  known.  We  are  so  much  accustomed 
to  measure  with  our  eye  the  ground  which  we  travel, 
and  to  compare  the  judgments  of  distance  formed  by 
sight  with  our  experience  or  information,  that  we  learn 
by  degrees  in  this   manner  to  form  a  more  accurate 


72  LECTURE    IV. 

judgment  of  the  distance  of  terrestrial  objects  than  we 
could  do  by  any  of  the  means  above  mentioned.  It  is 
for  want  of  some  intervening  objects  that  it  is  so  diffi- 
cult to  measure  distances  by  the  eye  up  in  the  air,  out 
at  sea,  or  on  extensive  plains.  This  mode  of  estimating 
distance  accounts  for  the  superior  apparent  magnitude 
of  the  moon  in  the  horizon  :  for,  first,  its  distance  seems 
greater  on  account  of  the  known  distance  of  the  terres- 
trial objects  that  intervene ;  and  where  the  visible 
magnitude  is  the  same,  the  real  magnitude  of  objects  is 
always  determined  to  be  in  proportion  to  the  distance. 

The  proof  of  this  being  the  real  solution  of  the  diffi- 
culty is,  that  if  the  horizontal  moon  be  viewed  through 
a  tube  which  excludes  all  terrestrial  objects,  its  appear- 
ance is  precisely  the  same  as  at  any  other  time. 

The  last  method  by  which  we  determine  the  distance 
of  objects  is  by  their  visible  magnitude.  By  experience, 
I  know  what  figure  a  man  or  any  other  known  object 
makes  to  my  eye  at  the  distance  of  ten  feet ;  I  perceive 
the  gradual  diminution  of  this  visible  figure  at  the  dis- 
tance of  twenty,  forty,  one  hundred  feet,  till  it  vanish 
altogether  :  hence  a  certain  visible  magnitude  of  a  known 
object  becomes  the  sign  of  a  certain  determinate  dis- 
tance, and  carries  along  with  it  the  conception  and  be- 
lief of  that  distance. 

I  shall  say  nothing  here  of  the  moral  method  of  meas- 
uring distances  ; — the  distance  from  home  to  school, 
in  the  days  of  our  youth,  being  generally  double  the  dis- 
tance from  school  to  home  ;  and  so  forth  with  all  other 
passions  which  quicken  or  retard  the  feeling  of  time. 

It  is  just  the  same  with  the  cubical  magnitudes  of 
bodies.  We  think  we  see  that  a  body  is  thick  and  round; 
it  is  quite  certain  that  we  see  neither  the  one  nor  the 
other,  for  the  eye  can  see  nothing  but  plain  surfaces ; 
but  then  wre  learn  from  experience  that  certain  different 
appearances  of  light  or  shade  upon  plain  surfaces  are 
constantly  connected  with  those  feelings  of  bodies  which 
we  call  round  and  thick.  Just  in  the  same  manner  it  is 
probable  that  the  notions  wThich  the  ear  has  of  distance 
-and  position  are  entirely  the  result  of  experience ;  and 
that  a  person  deaf  from  his  birth,  and  suddenly  cured. 


ON    THE    POWERS    OF    EXTERNAL    PERCEPTION.  73 

would  be  quite  ignorant  from  what  quarter,  and  from 
what  distance,  sound  originated.  Thus  we  see  that  the 
senses  soon  learn  to  lay  aside  their  own  homely  and 
barren  language,  and  to  speak  in  a  more  elegant  and 
universal  dialect ;  and  we  see  that  man,  endowed  with 
the  senses  he  now  is,  and  deprived  of  the  power  of  con- 
necting their  notices  together  by  indissoluble  associa- 
tions, would  have  risen  very  little  above  the  rank  of  the 
lower  animals.  All  the  labors  of  the  human  mind  point 
and  tend  toward  the  same  process  which  has  been 
carried  on  in  our  early  infancy  with  respect  to  associated 
sensation, — so  to  connect  together,  by  copious  induction, 
the  sign  with  the  thing  signified,  that  the  one  may 
suggest  the  other  with  the  certainty  and  velocity  of 
sensation. 

The  phenomena  of  double  vision  and  inverted  images 
I  must,  for  fear  of  protracting  my  lecture  too  long,  en- 
tirely pass  over  ;  referring  those  whose  curiosity  may  be 
excited  on  these  subjects  to  Bishop  Berkeley's  Essay 
on  Vision,  Dr.  Porterfield  on  the  Eye,  Dr.  Wells's  Essay 
on  Vision,  and  Dr.  Reid's  admirable  first  work  on  the 
Human  Mind.  To  prove,  in  some  measure,  how  much 
of  our  sight  is  original,  and  how  much  acquired,  and 
to  illustrate  therefore  a  great  deal  of  what  I  have 
said  throughout  this  lecture,  I  shall  read  to  you  the 
famous  case  of  a  young  man  born  blind,  and  suddenly 
restored  to  his  sight  by  undergoing  the  operation  of 
couching. 

A  young  gentleman,  who  was  born  with  two  cata- 
racts upon  each  of  his  eyes,  was,  in  1728,  couched  by 
Mr.  Cheselden,  and  by  that  means  for  the  first  time 
made  to  see  distinctly.  "  At  first,"  says  the  operator, 
"  he  could  bear  but  very  little  light,  and  the  things  he 
saw  he  thought  extremely  large ;  but  upon  seeing 
things  larger,  those  first  seen  he  conceived  less,  never 
being  able  to  imagine  any  lines  beyond  the  bounds  he 
saw.  The  room  he  was  in,  he  said,  he  knew  to  be  but 
part  of  the  house,  yet  he  could  not  conceive  that  the 
whole  house  would  look  bigger. 

"  Though  we  say  of  this  gentleman  that  he  was  blind, 
as  we  do  of  all  people  who  have  ripe  cataracts,  yet  they 

D 


74  LECTURE    IV. 

are  never  so  blind  from  that  cause  but  that  they  can  dis- 
cern day  from  night,  and,  for  the  most  part,  in  a  strong 
light,  distinguish  black,  white,  and  scarlet :  but  they  can 
not  perceive  the  shape  of  any  thing ;  for  the  light  by 
which  these  perceptions  are  made,  being  let  in  obliquely 
through  the  aqueous  humor,  or  the  anterior  surface  of 
the  crystaline  humor,  by  which  the  rays  can  not  be 
brought  into  a  focus  upon  the  retina,  they  can  discern  in 
no  other  manner  than  a  sound  eye  can  through  a  glass 
of  broken  jelly,  where  a  great  variety  of  surfaces  so  dif- 
ferently refract  the  light,  that  the  several  distinct  pencils 
of  rays  can  not  be  collected  by  the  eye  into  their  proper 
foci ;  wherefore  the  shape  of  an  object  in  such  a  case 
can  not  be  discerned  at  all,  though  the  color  may  :  and 
thus  it  was  with  this  young  gentleman,  who,  though  he 
knew  those  colors  asunder,  in  a  good  light,  yet,  when  he 
saw  them  after  he  was  couched,  the  faint  ideas  he  had  of 
them  before,  were  not  sufficient  for  him  to  know  them 
by  afterward ;  and  therefore  he  did  not  think  them  the 
same  which  he  had  before  known  by  those  names. 

"  When  he  first  saw,  he  was  so  far  from  making  any 
judgment  about  distances,  that  he  thought  all  objects 
whatever  touched  his  eyes  (as  he  expressed  it),  as  what 
he  felt  did  his  skin  ;  and  thought  no  objects  so  agreeable 
as  those  which  were  smooth  and  regular,  though  he  could 
form  no  judgment  of  their  shape,  or  guess  what  it  was  in 
any  object  that  was  pleasing  to  him.  He  knew  not  the 
shape  of  any  thing,  nor  any  one  thing  from  another,  how- 
ever different  in  shape  or  magnitude  ;  but  upon  being 
told  what  things  were  whose  form  he  before  knew  from 
feeling,  he  would  carefully  observe  that  he  might  know 
them  again ;  but  having  too  many  objects  to  learn  at 
once,  he  forgot  many  of  them,  and  (as  he  said)  at  first 
learned  to  know,  and  again  forget,  a  thousand  things  in 
a  day.  One  particular  only,  though  it  may  appear  tri- 
fling, I  will  relate.  Having  often  forgot  which  was  the 
cat  and  which  the  dog,  he  was  ashamed  to  ask  ;  but 
catching  the  cat  (which  he  knew  by  feeling),  he  was  ob- 
served to  look  at  her  steadfastly,  and  then,  setting  her 
down,  said,  '  So,  Puss !  I  shall  know  you  another  time/ 

"  We  thought  he  soon  knew  what  pictures  represented 


ON    THE    POWERS    OF    EXTERNAL    PERCEPTION.  75 

which  were  shown  him;  but  we  found  afterward  we 
were  mistaken,  for,  about  two  months  after  he  was 
couched,  he  discovered  at  once  they  represented  solid 
bodies,  when  to  that  time  he  considered  them  only  as 
party-colored  planes,  or  surfaces  diversified  with  variety 
of  paints  :  but  even  then,  he  was  no  less  surprised, — ex- 
pecting the  pictures  would  feel  like  the  things  they  repre- 
sented ;  and  was  amazed  when  he  found  those  parts 
which,  by  their  light  and  shadow,  appeared  now  round 
and  uneven,  felt  only  flat  like  the  rest, — and  asked  which 
was  the  lying  sense,  feeling  or  seeing. 

"  In  a  year  after  seeing,  the  young  gentleman  being 
carried  upon  Epsom  Downs,  and  observing  a  large 
prospect,  he  was  exceedingly  delighted  with  it,  and 
called  it  a  new  kind  of  seeing." 


FRAGMENT    OF    LECTURE   V. 

ON  CONCEPTION. 


*  *  *  *  *  before  the 

mind  can  gaze  upon  the  scene  with  any  portion  of  tran- 
quillity and  composure.  This  mistake  of  conception  for 
sensation  is  also  the  best  key  to  the  phenomena  observed 
in  madness.  A  madman  has  the  conception  of  all  the 
pageantry  of  a  court,  and  so  may  any  man  in  his  senses  ; 
the  difference  is,  the  one  knows  it  to  be  only  a  creation 
of  his  mind,  the  other  really  believes  he  sees  dukes,  and 
marquises,  and  all  the  splendor  of  a  real  court.  If  he  is 
not  very  far  gone,  he  pays  some  attention  to  the  objects 
of  sense  about  him,  and  tells  you  that  he  is  confined  in 
this  sorry  situation  by  the  perfidy  and  rebellion  of  his 
subjects.  As  the  disease  further  advances,  he  totally 
neglects  the  objects  of  his  senses  ; — does  not  see  that  he 
sleeps  on  straw  and  is  chained  down,  but  abandons 
himself  wholly  to  the  creations  of  his  mind,  and  riots  in 
every  extravagance  of  thought.  This,  though  by  far 
the  most  common  species  of  insanity,  is  not  the  only  one. 
There  are  some  persons  quite  rational  in  their  percep- 
tions, who  are  considered  as  deranged  only  from  a 
morbid  association  of  ideas  ;  as  in  the  instance  of  the 
patient  mentioned  in  Mr.  Haslam's  book,  who  persevered 
in  a  vegetable  diet  because,  he  said,  roast  and  boiled 
meat  felt  the  most  exquisite  pain  while  any  person  was 
devouring  them. 

The  mistaking  of  conceptions  for  sensations  appears 
also  to  be  the  proper  explanation  of  what  passes  in  our 
minds  during  sleep.  To  consider  sleep  aright,  we  must 
divide  it  into  stages.     In  profound   sleep,  there   is   no 


ON    CONCEPTION.  77 

evidence  that  we  think  at  all.  When  we  have  been 
exhausted  with  great  fatigue  or  acute  pain,  we  often  lie 
motionless  for  hours,  without  the  smallest  recollection 
that  a  single  idea  has  passed  through  our  minds:  the 
periods  of  sleeping  and  waking  appear  to  be  consecutive 
instants  of  time.  In  this  state  of  sleep  it  seems  as  if 
every  operation  of  the  mind  were  entirely  suspended  ; 
and  in  the  instance  of  those  who  have  taken  quantities 
of  opium,  or  become  drowsy  from  long  journeys  over 
snow,  it  seems  to  have  a  great  tendency  to  death.  We 
frequently  dream  in  our  sleep  without  recollecting  the 
slightest  feature  of  our  dreams  when  we  wake.  It 
would  appear  at  first,  that  processes  of  thought  which 
have  made  such  faint  impressions  on  the  memory  must 
have  been  the  slightest  and  most  disconnected  of  all 
dreams  ;  and  yet  the  most  rational  and  systematic 
dreamers — those  who  walk  in  their  sleep — have  seldom 
or  ever  the  most  distant  recollection  that  they  have  been 
dreaming  at  all. 

In  the  common  state  of  sleep,  where  we  dream  with- 
out stirring,  or,  at  least,  without  walking  about,  there 
seems  to  be,  first,  a  great  diminution  of  the  power  of  the 
will  over  the  body,  but  by  no  means  a  total  suspension 
of  that  power  :  for  a  person  much  agitated  in  his  dreams 
can  cry  out,  and  therefore  subject  the  organs  of  speech 
to  his  will ;  or  he  can  toss  about  his  hands  and  feet,  and 
so  subject  those  parts  of  his  body  to  his  will ;  but,  how- 
ever, the  influence  of  the  will  upon  the  body,  though  not 
wholly  suspended,  is  certainly  considerably  weakened. 
In  this  sort  of  sleep  it  is  still  less  suspended  over  the 
mind,  for  a  man  makes  a  bargain  in  his  dreams,  and 
examines  the  terms  of  the  bargain,  and  dwells  upon  one 
part  of  it  with  some  accuracy;  he  argues  in  his  sleep,  not 
merely  repeating,  as  has  been  said,  arguments  which 
have  occurred  to  him  in  his  waking  hours,  but  inventing 
new  ones,  with  some  pains  and  attention.  I  mention 
these  circumstances  in  opposition  to  those  who  have 
contended  that  the  influence  of  the  will  is  entirely 
suspended  in  sleep.  I  should  think  diminished  would 
be  a  better  word, — for  suspended  it  certainly  is  not  in 
the  body,  and  still  less  so  in  the  mind ;  though  its  power 


78  FRAGMENT    OF    LECTURE    V. 

is  incomparably  less  than  in  our  waking  hours.  But  the 
most  striking  phenomenon  in  our  sleep  is  that  which 
I  have  shown  to  take  place  in  madness — the  confusion 
between  our  sensations  and  conceptions.  I  may  think 
when  I  am  awake  of  a  chariot  drawn  by  tigers  ;  but  I 
know  then,  it  is  merely  a  thought.  When  I  am  in  a 
revery,  I  am  in  a  confused  state  between  doubt  and 
belief  of  its  existence.  When  I  am  asleep,  I  take  this 
thought  for  a  reality  ;  and  as  our  sensations  follow  one 
another  in  a  regular  and  established  order,  and  our  con- 
ceptions are  very  loosely  connected  together,  this  is  the 
reason  of  all  the  absurdity  and  incongruity  of  our 
dreams.  Indeed,  sense  and  nonsense,  congruity  and  in- 
congruity, are  only  determined  by  the  outer  world ;  and 
we  consider  our  conceptions  to  be  wild  or  rational  only 
as  they  correspond  with  it. 

According  as  sleep  is  more  or  less  perfect,  sensations 
do  or  do  not  produce  an  effect  upon  the  mind,  exactly 
the  same  as  in  revery  or  in  madness.  A  person  may,  in 
some  cases,  sleep  so  soundly,  that  the  firing  a  pistol  close 
to  his  ear  will  not  rouse  him; — at  other  times  the 
slightest  sensation  of  light  or  noise  will  rouse  him.  A 
sort  of  intermediate  state  between  these  two  is  that 
where  the  sensation  comes  to  the  mind  in  so  imperfect  a 
state,  that  it  produces  some  effect  upon  the  current  of 
conceptions  without  correcting  them.  If  there  is  a 
window  left  open,  and  the  cold  air  blows  in,  the  sufferer 
may  think  himself  on  the  top  of  Mount  Caucasus,  buried 
in  the  snow ;  or  the  cat  making  a  noise  shall  immediately 
transport  him  in  imagination  to  the  Opera. 

The  most  singular  phenomenon  respecting  sleep  is 
somnambulism,  or  walking  in  the  sleep.  The  instances 
are  innumerable  of  men  who  have  walked  along  the 
ridges  of  houses  in  their  sleep ;  have  got  up,  dressed 
themselves,  taken  pen,  ink,  and  paper,  have  written  very 
rationally  and  connectedly,  and  acted  precisely  as  they 
would  have  done  had  they  been  awake.  Out  of  this 
mass  of  histories  I  shall  make  a  short  extract  from  a 
well-authenticated  one,  reported  by  a  Physical  Society 
at  Lausanne.  It  is  the  case  of  Devaux,  a  lad  about 
thirteen  years  of  age,  who  lived  in  the  town  of  Vevay. 


ON     CONCEPTION.  79 

He  did  not  walk  in  his  sleep  every  nignt,  but  passed 
sometimes  six  or  seven  weeks,  without  a  fit  of  somnam- 
bulism. Before  the  fit  begins  he  utters  broken  words, 
sits  up  in  his  bed,  abruptly  begins  to  talk  with  more 
coherence,  then  rises,  and  goes  wherever  the  nature  of 
his  dream  prompts  him.  Having  risen  one  night  with 
the  intention  of  eating  grapes,  he  left  the  house,  went 
through  the  town,  and  passed  on  to  a  vineyard,  where 
he  expected  good  cheer.  He  was  followed  by  several 
persons,  who  kept  at  a  distance  from  him,  one  of  whom 
fired  a  pistol,  the  noise  of  which  immediately  awoke 
him,  and  he  fell  down  in  a  fit.  Once  he  was  observed 
dressing  himself  in  the  dark.  His  clothes  were  on  a 
large  table  mixed  with  those  of  some  other  persons.  At 
last  a  light  was  brought :  he  separated  the  clothes  and 
dressed  himself  with  sufficient  precision.  Another  time 
he  got  out  of  bed  and  finished  a  piece  of  writing,  in 
order,  as  he  said,  to  please  his  master.  It  consisted  of 
three  kinds  of  writing,  text,  half-text,  and  small  writing, 
each  of  them  performed  with  the  proper  pen.  He  drew, 
in  the  corner  of  the  same  paper,  the  figure  of  a  hat. 
He  then  asked  for  a  penknife,  to  take  out  a  blot  of  ink 
which  he  had  made  between  two  letters ;  and  he  erased 
it  without  injuring  either.  Lastly,  he  made  some  calcu- 
lations with  great  accuracy. 

Now,  in  this  case  of  Devaux's,  and  in  all  such  cases 
of  somnambulism,  there  is  an  approach  to  the  awaking 
state  of  the  mind  :  they  afford  an  intermediate  step 
between  sleep  and  vigilance,  and  differ  only  from  mad- 
ness in  the  time  of  their  duration.  For  in  somnambu- 
lism the  will  has  recovered  great  part  of  its  dominion 
over  the  body  and  mind  which  it  had  lost  in  perfect 
sleep  ;  for  we  see  that  a  somnambulist  walks  about, 
and  thinks,  and  reasons,  and  acts,  with  a  great  share  of 
precision.  The  difference  between  a  somnambulist  and 
a  man  awake,  is,  that  the  first  distinguishes  between  his 
sensations  and  perceptions  only  in  part,  the  latter  en- 
tirely. Devaux  got  up  and  wrote  a  copy  for  his  master, 
— he  saw  the  pen  and  ink,  and  the  writing,  and  various 
other  things,  as  plainly  as  if  he  had  been  awake  ;  but  he 
did  not  attend  to  the  appearance  of  the  room,  the  beds, 


80  FRAGMENT    OF    LECTURE    V. 

and  the  faces  about  him  ;  he  most  probably  thought  he 
was  in  school,  with  his  school-fellows  about  him,  and  so 
far  he  was  under  the  influence  of  his  conceptions.  This 
is  just  the  case  with  innumerable  madmen  we  see  in 
Bedlam.  Somnambulism  continued  would,  so  far  as  I 
can  see,  differ  nothing  from  madness.  Dreaming  differs 
from  madness  only  in  the  diminution  of  the  power  of 
the  will  ;  excepting  that  there  are  very  few  madmen  in 
Bedlam  so  mad  as  a  dreamer.  There  seems  also  to  be 
a  certain  connection  between  the  augmented  power  of 
conception  and  the  diminished  power  of  will ;  so  that 
a  man  becomes,  in  sleeping,  motionless,  exactly  as  he 
becomes  mad,  and  regains  his  power  of  moving  as  he  re- 
gains his  power  of  moving  for  a  rational  purpose.  This 
happens,  luckily  enough  for  dreamers,  who  would  other- 
wise infallibly  break  their  limbs  every  time  they  dreamed  ; 
and  for  the  somnambulist,  who,  when  he  can  move  about, 
has  acquired  a  considerable  share  of  reason  :  so  that  we 
may  perceive,  if  these  observations  be  true,  the  following 
phenomena  to  take  place,  exactly  in  proportion  as  the 
outward  senses  lose  their  power,  and  the  conceptions 
acquire  a  greater  vigor  than  is  natural  to  them : — 
revery,  absence,  somnambulism,  madness,  and  sleep  ; 
and  by  reversing  the  scale,  the  conceptions  gradually 
lose  their  force,  and  the  sensations  gain  it. 

A  similar  mistake  is  often  seen  to  take  place  between 
the  ideas  of  memory  and  those  of  conception  ;  they  are 
in  many  instances  confounded  together.  Children  are 
often  detected,  in  falsehoods  which  evidently  originate 
from  this  cause  :  they  have,  not  learned  to  distinguish 
between  their  memory  and  their  conception,  and  there- 
fore believe  they  have  seen  and  heard  things  which  they 
have  only  fancied.  In  the  same  manner,  very  old  men, 
approaching  to  their  second  infancy,  are  apt  to  confound 
what  they  have  only  conceived,  with  what  they  have 
remembered  ;  and  for  this  cause  to  become  somewhat 
unintelligible  to  those  who  converse  with  them. 

Nature  has  probably  made  a  strong  original  difference 
between  our  sensations  and  conceptions ;  but  whatever 
the  original  difference  may  be,  it  is  considerably  strength- 
ened by  habit.     Everv  vear  we  live,   till  our  faculties 


ON    CONCEPTION.  81 

decline,  the  difference  becomes  more  and  more  consider- 
able, and  is,  of  course,  much  less  remarkable  in  infancy 
than  in  manhood.  This  I  take  to  be  the  reason  why 
children  can  amuse  themselves  so  well  and  so  long  with 
dolls,  and  talk  to  them  as  if  they  were  alive  :  not  that  I 
suppose  the  deception  is  ever  perfect,  but  that  their  con- 
ceptions approaching  much  nearer  to  their  sensations, 
communicate  more  of  the  interest  of  real  life.  As  the 
child  gets  older,  and  the  difference  between  these  two 
classes  of  ideas  more  wide,  the  wooden  darling  is  tossed 
aside,  because  the  conception  has  become  a  more  lan- 
guid and  uninteresting  representative  of  reality.  There 
seems  to  be  a  regular  process  carried  on  in  the  mind 
throughout  its  whole  existence,  by  which  ideas  of 
memory  are  converted  into  ideas  of  conception.  If  a 
poet  writes  two  or  three  hundred  verses,  very  many  of 
the  combinations  of  words,  perhaps  whole  verses,  will 
be  faithful  copies  of  what  he  has  once  remembered,  and 
which,  divested  of  all  the  marks  of  their  origin,  have  re- 
appeared to  the  writer  as  productions  of  his  own  brain. 
In  the  same  manner,  in  a  fancy  landscape,  or  in  grounds 
laid  out  by  a  man  of  taste,  many  of  the  combinations 
are  in  all  probability  copies  of  real  scenes,  which  the 
person  who  introduced  them  could  once  have  referred 
to  some  particular  spot,  but  have  now  become  his  own 
property,  from  an  inability  to  discover  their  former 
master, — like  domestic  animals  which  run  away  into 
the  woods,  and  belong  to  whoever  can  catch  them. 

I  shall  mention  only  one  more  fact  respecting  concep- 
tion, and  it  is  a  curious  one,  for  which  no  reason  can  be 
given  but  that  such  is  the  constitution  of  our  nature  ; — I 
mean,  the  great  facility  we  all  exhibit  of  conceiving  the. 
impressions  of  one  sense  better  than  those  of  another. 
It  is,  for  instance,  much  easier  to  conceive  any  sight, 
than  to  conceive  a  taste,  or  a  smell,  or  a  feeling,  or  a 
sound.  Sight  is  indeed  so  much  the  favorite  and  im- 
pressive sense,  that  almost  the  whole  language  of  meta- 
physics is  borrowed  from  it.  Let  any  person  attempt  to 
conceive  the  smell  or  the  taste  of  a  melon, — they  will 
find  their  conceptions  of  those  sensations  extremely  faint ; 

D* 


82  FRAGMENT    OF    LECTURE    V. 

but  they  will  without  difficulty  form  a  clear  conception 
of  its  figure  and  color. 

To  epitomize  then  the  tedious  account  I  have  given  of 
this  class  of  ideas,  we  must  remember  the  threefold  divi- 
sion of  ideas  with  which  I  began — ideas  of  the  outward 
senses,  ideas  we  conceive  in  our  mind,  and  ideas  we  re- 
member. We  must  recollect  that  when  ideas  of  the 
senses  are  little  heeded,  and  the  conceptions  of  the  mind 
acquire  the  force  of  realities,  then  we  are  said  to  be 
absent,  or  to  be  in  a  revery,  or  we  are  under  the  in- 
fluence of  great  passions,  or  asleep,  or  somnambulists,  or 
madmen.  There  is  less  difference  between  ideas  of 
sense  and  conceptions  in  our  infancy  than  in  our  mature 
age,  when  the  difference  is  widened  by  experience  ;  and 
this  difference  again  becomes  less,  when  the  effects  of 
experience  are  lost  in  extreme  old  age.  We  conceive 
some  objects  of  sense  better  than  others. 

Men  differ  in  their  power  of  lively  conception,  but 
more  in  their  habits  of  attention ;  but  conception  is  in 
all  men  much  strengthened  by  habit.  Lastly,  ideas  of 
memory  fade  away,  and  appear  in  a  renovated  shape,  as 
the  mere  creatures  of  the  brain.  These  are  the  faint 
and  imperfect  notices  of  the  great  operations  which  are 
passing  within  us  :  the  practical  inference  from  them  is, 
while  we  give  vigor,  extent,  and  variety  to  our  concep- 
tions, by  cultivating  an  ardent  curiosity  for  knowledge, 
to  repress  their  dangerous  vivacity  by  a  cool  and  steady 
appeal  to  the  realities  of  life  ;  to  cherish  this  reproductive 
faculty,  as  the  source  of  eloquence,  poetry,  and  wit ;  but 
so  to  cherish  it  that  we  will  govern  it,  and  even  exact 
from  it  a  ready  obedience  to  the  natural  majesty  of  truth. 
He  who  can  thus  manage  his  mind  has  two  worlds  before 
him  instead  of  one :  he  can  contemplate  and  act ;  and, 
dispelling  the  vision  of  a  rich  and  creative  mind,  can 
come  down  into  the  world  of  realities  to  observe  with 
steadfastness,  and  to  act  with  consistency. 


FRAGMENT    OF    LECTURE   VI. 

ON  MEMORY. 


*  *  *  *  *         He  obtains  all 

the  convenience  which  he  does  obtain  by  the  reference 
of  individual  transactions  to  certain  general  heads  ;  and 
thus,  by  knowing  only  the  nature  of  any  transaction  he 
wishes  to  refer  to,  and  by  seeking  for  it  under  its  appro- 
priate division,  it  is  found  with  facility  and  dispatch. 

Mr.  Stewart  conceives  (and,  as  it  appears  to  me,  with 
great  justice)  that  the  decay  of  memory  observable  in 
old  men,  proceeds  as  frequently  from  the  very  little  in- 
terest they  take  in  what  is  passing  around  them,  as  in 
any  bodily  decay  by  which  their  powers  of  mind  are 
weakened  : — "  In  so  far  as  this  decay  of  memory  which 
old  age  brings  along  with  it,  is  a  necessary  consequence 
of  a  physical  change  in  the  constitution,  or  a  necessary 
consequence  of  a  diminution  of  sensibility,  it  is  the  part 
of  a  wise  man  to  submit  cheerfully  to  the  lot  of  his 
nature.  But  it  is  not  unreasonable  to  think,  that  some- 
thing may  be  done  by  our  own  efforts,  to  obviate  the  in- 
conveniences which  commonly  result  from  it. 

"  If  individuals  who,  in  the  early  part  of  life,  have 
weak  memories,  are  sometimes  able  to  remedy  this  de- 
fect by  a  greater  attention  to  arrangement  in  their  trans- 
actions, and  to  classification  among  their  ideas,  than  is 
necessary  to  the  bulk  of  mankind,  might  it  not  be  possi- 
ble, in  the  same  way,  to  ward  off,  at  least  to  a  certain 
degree,  the  encroachments  which  time  makes  on  this 
faculty  ?  The  few  old  men  who  continue  in  the  active 
scenes  of  life  to  the  last  moment,  it  has  often  been  re- 
marked, complain,  in  general,  much  less  of  a  want  of 


84  FRAGMENT  -OF    LECTURE    VI. 

recollection  than  their  cotemporaries.  This  is  undoubt- 
edly owing,  partly,  to  the  effect  which  the  pursuits  of 
business  must  necessarily  have  in  keeping  alive  the 
power  of  attention.  But  it  is  probably  owing  also  to 
new  habits  of  arrangement,  which  the  mind  gradually 
and  insensibly  forms  from  the  experience  of  its  growing 
infirmities.  The  apparent  revival  of  memory  in  old  men, 
after  a  temporary  decline  (which  is  a  case  that  happens 
not  unfrequently)  seems  to  favor  this  supposition. 

"  One  old  man  I  have,  myself,  had  the  good  fortune  to 
know,  who,  after  a  long,  an  active,  and  an  honorable  life, 
having  begun  to  feel  some  of  the  usual  effects  of  ad- 
vanced years,  has  been  able  to  find  resources  in  his  own 
sagacity,  against  most  of  the  inconveniences  with  which 
they  are  commonly  attended  ;  and  who,  by  watching  his 
gradual  decline  with  the  cool  eye  of  an  indifferent  ob- 
server, and  employing  his  ingenuity  to  retard  its  prog- 
ress, has  converted  even  the  infirmities  of  age  into  a 
source  of  philosophical  amusement."* 

I  believe  that  this  old  gentleman  was  Dr.  Reid ;  and 
he  certainly  is  a  memorable  instance  of  a  victory  gained 
over  the  infirmities  of  age.  I  have  heard,  from  a  friend 
of  his,  that  at  the  age  of  seventy  he  was  as  keen  and 
eager  about  the  then  new  discoveries  of  chemistry  as  if 
he  had  been  just  beginning  his  career  of  science.  Such 
facts  appear  to  me  to  be  of  the  greatest  importance,  as 
they  evince  what  may  be  done  by  a  noble  effort  of  reso- 
lution. A  modern  writer,  who  at  one  time  made  some 
noise,  says,  that  it  is  men's  own  faults  if  they  die  ;  that 
dying  is  a  mere  trick,  which  may  be  avoided  with  a  little 
resolution.  I  can  not  quite  go  so  far  as  this,  but  I  am 
convinced,  that  it  is  for  a  long  time  in  every  man's 
power  to  determine  whether  he  will  be  old  or  not.  The 
outward  marks  of  age  we  are  all  of  us  very  willing  to  de- 
fer ;  forgetting  that  we  may  wear  the  inward  bloom  of 
youth  with  true  dignity  and  grace,  and  be  ready  to  learn, 
and  eager  to  give  pleasure  to  others,  to  the  latest  moment 
of  our  existence. 

In  the   same   manner,   memory  may  be  wonderfully 

*  Stewart's  Elements  of  Philosophy,  chap.  vi.  p.  416. 


ON     MEMORY.  85 

strengthened  by  referring  single  facts  and  observations 
to  one  simple  principle ;  and  by  these  means  we  can 
either  remember  the  principle  by  remembering  the  fact, 
or  the  fact  by  remembering  the  principle. 

It  is  very  common  to  hear  people  complain  that  they 
can  not  remember  what  they  read  ;  and  the  reason  is  very 
obvious, — that  they  are  perpetually  admitting  into  their 
minds  a  string  of  insulated  events  without  arranging 
them  with  any  method,  which  may  be  instrumental  to 
their  reproduction.  Let  us  take  a  few  instances  of  this. 
The  first  shall  be  in  history,  and  in  the  history  of  re- 
ligion. I  believe  the  rule  which  all  wise  and  moderate 
men  adopt,  with  respect  to  toleration,  at  present,  is  this 
— that  no  man  ought  to  undergo  persecution  for  his  re- 
ligious opinions,  if  they  have  not  a  tendency  to  disturb 
the  public  peace :  that  point  secured,  the  rest  is  left  to 
discussion  only  ;  and  every  man  must  adjust  his  faith  as 
his  understanding  enlightens,  and  his  conscience  governs 
him,  without  the  fear  of  human  punishment.  An  igno- 
rance of  this  wise  and  simple  rule,  and  of  the  proper  limits 
of  human  interference,  is  a  key  to  all  the  bloody  and 
atrocious  persecutions  which  for  three  hundred  years 
desolated  Europe.  Again,  nobody  now  thinks  that 
Providence  perpetually  and  immediately  interferes  to 
punish  vice — that  if  any  man,  for  instance,  commits  a 
murder  this  night,  Providence  will  work  a  miracle  to  dis- 
cover it ;  but  the  rude  idea  of  religion  in  all  barbarous 
ages  is,  that  Divine  justice  is  like  human  justice,  and  that 
guilt  is  immediately  overtaken  by  punishment.  This 
mistake  may  be  traced  in  the  legal  institutions  of  almost 
all  barbarous  people,  and  is  the  principle  to  which  in- 
numerable separate  facts  may  be  referred  at  all  periods 
of  the  world.  It  is,  of  course,  the  origin  of  the  corsenet, 
of  the  ordeal,  of  the  /uvdgog  among  the  Greeks,  the  judicial 
tournament  in  the  days  of  chivalry,  and  of  the  trial  by 
red  water  on  the  coast  of  Africa.  France  has  fallen  un- 
der the  dominion  of  a  single  man,  so  did  Rome,  so  have 
innumerable  free  countries.  The  cause,  in  many  in- 
stances, has  been  precisely  the  same — that  anarchy 
which  has  been  produced  by  the  licentiousness  of  the 
people,  and  which  has  rendered  them  an  easy  prey  to  the 


80  FRAGMENT    OF    LECTURE    VI. 

first  ambitious  man  who  could  ingratiate  himself  with 
the  army.  Such  examples  are  very  trite,  and  what 
might  occur  to  any  one ;  I  only  mention  them  to  illus- 
trate the  importance  of  philosophical  arrangement  to 
memory,  and  to  show  how  much  more  likely  facts  are  to 
reappear  when  we  want  them,  if  we  have  clustered 
numbers  of  them  together  as  illustrative  of  a  simple  prin- 
ciple, than  if  they  are  promiscuously  scattered  through 
the  understanding  without  any  such  connecting  tie.  The 
most  striking  instance  of  it  is  botany.  What  but  the 
most  precise  and  rigorous  classification  could  possibly 
enable  a  botanist  to  remember  one  thousandth  part  of 
the  plants  which  at  present  he  can  remember  with  unerr- 
ing certainty  ? 

A  considerable  degree  of  importance  has  been  attached 
by  some  writers  on  education  to  the  scheme  of  artificial 
memory ;  the  general  intention  of  which  is,  not  to 
impress  the  thing  to  be  remembered  directly  upon  the 
memory,  but  to  impress  something  easier  than  the 
original  matter,  which,  by  arbitrary  association,  shall 
recall  it  to  the  mind.  Thus,  the  Battle  of  Hastings  in 
the  year  life.  What  is  the  meaning  of  the  year  life  ? 
Why,  I  stands  for  1,  i  for  0,  /  for  6,  and  e  for  6 ;  and  so 
we  have  the  year  1066  :  and  by  extending  this  idea  we 
may  put  numbers  into  whole  lines,  and  convey  a  system 
of  chronology  in  a  sort  of  poem.  Another  plan  is,  to 
keep  in  mind  a  house,  with  the  apartments  of  which  we 
are  minutely  acquainted,  and,  in  speaking,  to  arrange 
our  subject  according  to  a  preconcerted  association, 
between  the  division  of  the  matter  and  the  house.  This 
was  a  very  common  custom  among  the  speakers  of 
antiquity,  though  at  present  it  seems  to  be  quite  disused. 
I  confess,  myself,  I  have  no  very  high  opinion  of  these 
inventions  :  the  expression  of  facts  in  verse,  as  is  done 
in  those  doggerel  rhymes  by  which  we  remember  the 
days  of  the  month,  appears  to  be  the  best  of  them  ;  but, 
in  general,  the  remedy  is  much  worse  than  the  disease, 
and  the  difficulty  less  difficult  than  the  assistance  which 
is  to  overcome  it.  They  accustom  the  mind  to  light  and 
foolish  associations,  which  have  no  foundation  in  nature  ; 
they  convey  an  exaggerated  notion  of  the  difficulty  of 


ON    MEMORY.  87 

remembering,  when  such  inventions  are  resorted  to  to 
effect  it, — increase  the  disgust  which  such  difficulties  are 
apt  to  inspire, — weaken  that  confidence  in  the  strength 
of  memory,  and  the  intense  habits  of  labor  founded  upon 
that  confidence,  which  breed  up  a  race  of  great  scholars, 
and  cany  men  through  the  most  intricate  and  extended 
inquiries. 

Upon  nearly  the  same  principles  there  can,  I  should 
think,  be  very  little  doubt,  of  the  bad  effects  of  habitually 
writing  down  those  facts  and  events  which  we  wish  to 
remember  ; — they  are  taken  down  for  future  considera- 
tion, and  consequently  receive  very  little  present  con- 
sideration. From  a  conviction  that  our  knowledge  can 
be  thus  easily  recalled,  it  is  never  systematically  arranged 
or  deeply  engraved ,  we  atone  for  the  passive  indolence 
of  the  mind  by  the  mechanical  labor  of  the  hands,  and 
write  a  volume  without  remembering  a  line.  The  de- 
sirable and  the  useful  thing  is,  that  we  should  carry  our 
knowledge  about  with  us,  as  we  carry  our  health  about 
with  us  ;  that  the  one  should  be  exhibited  in  the  alacrity 
of  our  actions,  and  the  other  proved  by  the  vigor  of  our 
thoughts.  I  would  as  soon  call  a  man  healthy  who  had 
a  physician's  prescription  in  his  pocket,  which  he  could 
take  and  recover  from,  as  I  would  say  that  a  man  had 
knowledge  who  had  no  other  proof  of  it  to  afford,  than  a 
pile  of  closely-written  commonplace  books. 

Every  body  knows  the  importance  of  exercising  the 
memory  ;  and  it  seems  to  be  very  useful  to  carry  it  to 
the  extent  of  getting  select  passages  by  heart ; — it 
insensibly  adds  to  the  riches  and  the  copiousness  of 
fancy,  and  communicates,  perhaps,  a  habit  of  attentive 
reading.  This  practice  is  carried  to  a  prodigious  extent 
in  our  public  schools,  and  furnishes  men  with  materials 
for  wTit  and  imagination  through  the  whole  of  their  lives. 
At  the  same  time  this  practice  is  not  without  its  danger, 
and  that  a  very  considerable  one.  He  who  trusts  to 
what  he  can  produce  of  other  men's  imagination  is  apt 
to  lose  the  flower  and  freshness  of  his  own,  and  gradually 
to  sacrifice  the  vigor  and  originality  of  his  mind.  There 
is  a  homely  old  English  proverb,  that  an  ounce  of  mother 
is  worth  a  pound  of  clergy  ;    and  I  confess,  from  my 


88  FRAGMENT    OF    LECTURE    VI. 

own  feelings,  I  like  better  a  very  common  production 
which  seems  to  be  the  natural  growth  of  the  soil,  than 
that  exotic  luxuriance  which  art  has  cherished,  and 
which  harmonizes  so  badly  with  every  thing  which 
surrounds  it. 

But  the  great  secret  above  all  others  for  remembering, 

is,  to  work  the  mind  up  to  a  certain  pitch  of  enthusiasm 

####### 

*  #  #  #  #  #  # 


FRAGMENT   OF   LECTURE   VII. 

ON  IMAGINATION. 


#  #  #  These  are  conceptions.     If  1  gather 

together  in  my  mind  various  implements  of  war,  and 
create  out  of  them  the  picture  of  that  armor  in  which  I 
clothe  the  hero  of  my  poem,  this  is  an  act  of  imagina- 
tion ;  so  that  imagination  involves  conception,  though  it 
is  not  involved  by  it.  * 

*****  their  respective 
arts  to  any  high  degree  of  excellence  without  a  con- 
siderable share  of  the  faculty  of  imagination,  and  to  them 
have  the  efforts  of  this  faculty  commonly  been  confined ; 
but  there  appear  to  be  various  exertions  of  mind  perfectly 
similar  to  these,  and  to  which  we  never  think  of  applying 
the  same  word.  For  instance,  in  mechanical  invention, 
no  one  would  ever  think  of  saying  that  Mr.  Bramah  had 
displayed  a  great  deal  of  imagination  in  his  patent  locks, 
or  that  there  was  any  poetry  in  a  steam  engine ;  and 
yet  the  process  in  one  and  the  other  composition  does 
not  seem  to  be  very  dissimilar.  Mr.  Gray,  in  speaking 
of  Mars,  gives  to  his  lance  the  epithet  of  thirsty, — 

"  On  Thracia's  hill  the  Lord  of  War 
Shall  curb  the  fury  of  his  car, 
And  drop  his  thirsty  lance  at  thy  command." 

Now  let  us  see  how  this  epithet  of  thirsty  got  into  the 
mind  of  Mr.  Gray.  Perhaps  he  stole  it  (I  believe  he 
did)  ;  but  if  he  did,  we  have  only  to  reflect  how  it  got 
into  the  mind  of  the  person  whose  original  property  it 
was.  But  let  us  suppose  it  to  have  been  Mr.  Gray's 
own.      By  what  process  did  he  acquire  it  ?      He  began 


90  FRAGMENT    OF    LECTURE    VII. 

thinking  about  lances,  and  all  the  common  notions 
attached  to  that  of  a  lance  rushed  into  his  mind, — bloody, 
fierce,  cruel,  thick,  thin,  murderous,  rapid,  brazen,  iron, 
&c.  &c.  At  last  came,  all  of  a  sudden,  the  epithet  of 
thirsty;  and  the  poet,  perceiving  its  relation  to  his 
original  substantive,  and  its  aptitude  to  excite  poetical 
feelings  in  the  mind,  immediately  made  it  a  part  of  his 
poem.  If  we  follow  out  any  long  and  complicated 
description  in  a  poem,  the  same  process  will  be  found 
constantly  to  have  taken  place.  Now  is  there  any  thing 
very  different  from  this  which  takes  place  with  respect 
to  mechanical  invention  ?  You  want  to  work  the  rod 
of  a  pump  by  means  of  a  horizontal  axis  which  revolves 
above  it.  In  considering;  how  it  is  to  be  effected, 
innumerable  ideas  connected  with  machinery  crowd  into 
the  mind.  A  thousand  projects  are  proposed,  examined, 
and  rejected,  till  at  last  the  idea  of  a  crank  is  hit  upon. 
Its  relation  to  the  other  parts  is  immediately  perceived, 
and  it  becomes  a  part  of  the  machine.  Now  in  these 
two  processes  of  mind,  which  have  received  such  differ- 
ent names,  I  am  not  able  to  discover  any  difference ; 
— association  brings  together  in  each,  a  great  number 
of  connected  ideas,  and  judgment  discovers  some  relation 
between  them  which  was  not  at  first  obvious  :  the  only 
difference  is  in  the  ultimate  objects  which  they  have  in 
view.  The  imagination  of  a  poet  proposes  to  itself  to 
give  pleasure  by  the  sublime  and  beautiful ;  that  of  a 
mechanical  inventor  has  in  view  to  promote  some  pur- 
pose of  utility.  It  is  precisely  the  same  with  every  sort 
of  invention.  Pythagoras,  in  inventing  his  media  of 
proof  for  the  forty-seventh  proposition,  went  to  work 
very  much  as  a  poet  goes  to  work, — first  raising  a  multi- 
tude of  images  by  dint  of  association,  and  then  selecting 
and  applying  them  from  the  perception  of  their  relations. 
In  the  same  manner  with  wit :  the  object  differs,  and  the 
rapidity  differs  ;  but  the  process  of  the  understanding  is 
the  same  as  that  wre  designate  by  the  word  imagina- 
tion,— ideas  are  gathered  together,  connected  by  the 
lighter  sort  of  association,  and  then  that  particular  rela- 
tion which  constitutes  wit  is  discovered.  Indeed  all  the 
processes  I  have  specified  have  received  the  common 


ON    IMAGINATION.  91 

name  of  invention,  though  they  have  not  been  called  by 
that  of  imagination :  we  speak  of  poetical,  mechanical, 
geometrical  invention,  and  of  the  invention  of  wit ; 
though  we  use  the  word  imagination  in  a  much  more 
restricted  sense. 

Imagination  of  all  sorts,  though  originally  dealt  out 
with  very  different  degrees  of  profusion  to  different  men, 
is  capable  of  great  improvement  from  habit.  As  great 
part  of  imagination  depends  upon  association,  and  the 
power  of  association  always  increases  with  practice, 
men  acquire  extraordinary  command  over  particular 
classes  of  ideas,  and  are  supplied  with  copiousness  of 
materials  for  their  collection,  to  which  inexperienced 
and  unpracticed  minds  can  never  attain.  What  a  pro- 
digious command,  for  instance,  over  all  those  associations 
which  are  productive  of  wit,  must  the  head  wit  of  such 
a  city  as  this  or  Paris  have  acquired  in  twenty  years  of 
facetiousness, — having  been  accustomed,  for  that  space 
of  time,  to  view  all  the  characters  and  events  which  have 
fallen  under  his  notice  with  a  reference  to  these  rela- 
tions !  What  an  enormous  power  of  versification  must 
Pope  have  gained,  after  his  translations  of  the  Iliad  and 
the  Odyssey  !  so  that  no  combination  of  words  or  inflec- 
tion of  sounds,  could  possibly  have  been  new  to  him ; 
and  he  must  have  almost  meditated  in  hexameters,  and 
conversed  in  rhyme.  What  a  powerful  human  being 
must  that  man  become  who,  beginning  with  original 
talents,  has  been  accustomed,  for  half  his  life,  to  the 
eloquence  of  the  bar  or  the  senate  !  No  combination  of 
circumstances  can  come  before  him  for  which  he  is  un- 
prepared ;  he  is  always  ready  for  every  purpose  of 
defense  and  attack  ;  and  trusts,  with  the  most  implicit 
confidence,  to  that  host  of  words  and  images  which  he 
knows  from  long  experience  will  rise  up  at  any  moment 
of  exigence  for  his  ornament  and  support. 

Imagination  is  improved  by  imitation  ;  as  in  living 
with  men  who  are  eminent  for  that  faculty,  or  by  read- 
ing those  works  in  which  its  greatest  efforts  are  to  be 
found.  It  was  the  practice  of  some  notorious  man  (I 
believe  Bossuet.)  to  read  a  hundred  lines  of  Homer  before 
he  sat  down  to  compose ;  and  I  have  no  doubt  but  that 


92  FRAGMENT    OF    LECTURE    VII. 

he  might  have  derived  from  such  a  practice  unusual 
energy  and  elevation, — that  it  must  have  filled  his  mind 
full  of  great  images,  and  diffused  heat  and  light  over  all 
that  he  thought  and  wrote. 

The  imagination  (which  delights  to  be  fed  by  the  eye) 
is  cherished  and  inflamed  by  great  sights.  Nothing  can 
be  more  striking  and  solemn  than  the  first  sight  of  a 
mountainous  country  to  a  person  who  has  been  only 
accustomed  to  the  sleepy  flatness  of  an  alluvial  district. 
The  abruptness  and  audacity  of  the  scene,  the  swelling 
and  magnitude  of  nature,  the  universal  appearances  of 
convulsion,  the  magnificent  disorder  and  ruin,  astonish  a 
feeling  mind,  and  not  only  fill  it  with  grand  images  at 
present,  but  awaken  its  dormant  life,  rouse  slumbering 
irritability,  and  tell  those  whom  nature  has  made  orators 
and  poets  that  it  is  time  to  fulfil  the  noble  purposes  for 
which  they  were  born. 

Mere  magnitude — any  thing  vast — affects  the  imagina- 
tion and  sets  it  to  work.  A  first-rate  ship  of  war,  or 
a  Gothic  cathedral,  the  waters  of  an  immense  river  dis- 
charging itself  into  the  sea,  the  boundless  prospect  of  the 
earth  below,  that  we  gain  from  the  top  of  a  high  moun- 
tain, an  expanse  of  stormy  sea,  the  concave  of  heaven  in 
a  serene  night, — all  these  examples  of  immensity  are 
ever  found  to  have  a  powerful  effect  upon  this  faculty  of 
imagination.  The  imagination  is  stimulated  by  novelty ; 
and  so  much  so,  that  whatever  other  cause  affects  it,  it 
must  be  joined       #  #  #  #  # 


FRAGMENT    OF    LECTURE   VIII. 

ON   REASON   AND   JUDGMENT. 


*****  we  connect 

together  two  ideas  in  early  life,  which  we  find  it  abso- 
lutely impossible  to  separate  in  advanced  age ; — we 
reason  from  them  as  from  intuitive  truths,  and  upon 
such  topics  are  utterly  impregnable  to  every  attempt  at 
conviction.  These  are  the  principal  obstacles  to  the 
progress  of  the  reasoning  faculty ;  and  they  are  disor- 
ders of  the  mind  so  common,  and  so  detrimental,  that  I 
shall  speak  of  them  more  at  large  in  my  next  and  con- 
cluding lecture.  When  they  happen  not  to  exist,  or 
when  they  have  been  guarded  against  by  a  good  under- 
standing or  a  superior  education,  the  conclusions  we 
draw  upon  most  subjects  are  sound  and  just :  for  if  a 
question  be  discussed  coolly,  if  the  parties  have  no  other 
interest  in  its  termination  but  that  of  truth,  if  they  thor- 
oughly understand  the  terms  they  employ,  if  they  are 
well  informed  upon  the  related  facts,  and  if  they  are, 
both,  in  the  habit  of  guarding  against  accidental  asso- 
ciations, the  conclusions  in  which  they  terminate  will 
probably  be  the  same :  there  is  hardly  any  difference  of 
opinion  not  resolvable  into  one  or  the  other  of  these 
causes.  Here,  then,  we  have  an  outline  of  that  manly 
and  high-prized  reason,  which,  under  the  blessing  and 
direction  of  God,  arranges  the  affairs  of  this  world  ; 
which  cools  passion,  unravels  sophism,  enlightens  igno- 
rance, and  detects  mistake  ;  which  wit  can  not  discon- 
cert, nor  eloquence  bear  down ;  which  appeals  always 
to  realities,  and  ever  follows  truth  without  insolence  and 
without  fear.     For  it  is  disgraceful  to  the  immortal  un- 


94  FRAGMENT    OF    LECTURE  VIII. 

derstanding  of  man  to  be  governed  by  sounds,  and  to 
be  the  slave  of  that  speech  which  was  given  to  do  him 
service.  It  is  beneath  the  loftiness  of  his  faculties  to 
take  his  notions  of  truth  from  the  little  hamlet  in  which 
he  was  bred,  or  from  the  fashions  of  thought  which 
prevail  in  his  hour  of  life :  for  truth  dwells  not  on  the 
Danube,  or  the  Seine,  or  the  Thames ;  she  is  not  this 
thing  to-day,  and  to-morrow  another ;  but  she  is  of  all 
places,  and  all  times  the  same,  in  every  change  and  in 
every  chance, — as  firm  as  the  pillars  of  the  earth,  and 
as  beautiful  as  its  fabric.  Add  to  the  power  of  discov- 
ering truth,  the  desire  of  using  it  for  the  promotion  of 
human  happiness,  and  you  have  the  great  end  and  ob- 
ject of  our  existence.  This  is  the  immaculate  model  of 
excellence  that  every  human  being  should  fix  in  the 
chambers  of  his  heart ;  which  he  should  place  before  his 
mind's  eye  from  the  rising  to  the  setting  of  the  sun, — 
to  strengthen  his  understanding  that  he  may  direct  his 
benevolence,  and  to  exhibit  to  the  world  the  most  beau- 
tiful spectacle  the  world  can  behold,  of  consummate  vir- 
tue guided  by  consummate  talents.  "  For  some  men," 
says  Lord  Bacon,  "  think  that  the  gratification  of  curi- 
osity is  the  end  of  knowledge ;  some,  the  love  of  fame ; 
some,  the  pleasure  of  dispute ;  some,  the  necessity  of 
supporting  themselves  by  their  knowledge :  but  the  real 
use  of  all  knowledge  is  this, — that  we  should  dedicate 
that  reason  which  was  given  us  by  God  to  the  use  and 
advantage  of  man." 


LECTURE  IX. 

ON  THE  CONDUCT  OF  THE  UNDERSTANDING. 

It  appeared  to  me  rather  singular  when  I  sat  down  to 
consider  this  subject,  that  one  man  should  get  up  in  the 
midst  of  six  hundred  others,  and  tell  them  how  they 
were  to  conduct  their  understandings.  One  man  may 
very  fairly  be  supposed  to  have  made  greater  attain- 
ments in  botany  or  in  chemistry  than  others,  because  he 
may  have  dedicated  to  those  sciences  a  greater  portion 
of  his  time  and  attention  than  others  have  done  ;  but  he 
who  speaks  of  the  conduct  of  the  understanding,  speaks 
of  a  science  to  which  every  one  who  hears  him  has  been 
apprenticed  as  well  as  himself,  and  therefore  his  right  of 
instructing  can  not  rest  upon  the  same  clear  and  indis- 
putable grounds. 

Having  reared  up  this  edifice  of  modesty,  and  stopped 
a  little  while  to  admire  it,  I  immediately  proceed  to 
demolish  it  by  the  following  reflections : — that  to  ad- 
vance opinions  is  not  to  prescribe  laws ;  that  knowledge 
is  only  extended  and  confirmed  by  this  contribution  of 
individual  sentiments,  which  every  one  is  free  to  reject 
or  to  adopt ;  and  that  nothing  would  ever  be  de>ne  if 
every  person  were  to  enter  into  a  nice  calculation  of  his 
own  deficiencies,  and  the  talents  and  acquisitions  of 
others,  to  which  they  were  contrasted ;  that  the  only 
practical  way  was,  to  say  what  you  have  to  say  at  once, 
leaving  it  to  time  and  chance  whether  your  present 
opinions  will  be  strengthened  or  refuted  by  further  ob- 
servation. I  beg  leave  to  renew  an  observation  which 
I  made  in  my  first  lecture, — that  in  saying  any  thing  is 
so,  I  only  mean  to  say  J  think  it  is  so.  I  have  a  rational 
conviction  of  the  difficulty  of  such  subjects  ;  but  to  ex- 


96  LECTURE    IX. 

press  that  sense  of  the  difficulty  on  all  occasions  would 
be  tiresome,  and  inconsistent  with  the  energy  of  public 
speaking. 

As  the  general  object  of  my  lecture  will  be  to  guard 
against  the  most  ordinary  and  flagrant  errors  committed 
in  the  conduct  of  the  understanding,  and  as  I  see  no  use 
in  preserving  any  order  in  their  enumeration,  I  shall  put 
them  down  only  in  the  order  in  which  they  happen  to 
occur  to  me. 

The  first  thing  to  be  done  in  conducting  the  under- 
standing is  precisely  the  same  as  in  conducting  the 
body, — to  give  it  regular  and  copious  supplies  of  food, 
to  prevent  that  atrophy  and  marasmus  of  mind,  which 
comes  on  from  giving  it  no  new  ideas.  It  is  a  mistake 
equally  fatal  to  the  memory,  the  imagination,  the  powers 
of  reasoning,  and  to  every  faculty  of  the  mind,  to  think 
too  early  that  we  can  live  upon  our  stock  of  understand- 
ing,— that  it  is  time  to  leave  off  business,  and  make  use 
of  the  acquisitions  we  have  already  made,  without  trou- 
bling ourselves  any  further  to  add  to  them.  It  is  no 
more  possible  for  an  idle  man  to  keep  together  a  certain 
stock  of  knowledge,  than  it  is  possible  to  keep  together 
a  stock  of  ice  exposed  to  the  meridian  sun.  Every  day 
destroys  a  fact,  a  relation,  or  an  inference ;  and  the  only 
method  of  preserving  the  bulk  and  value  of  the  pile  is  by 
constantly  adding  to  it. 

The  prevailing  idea  with  young  people  has  been,  the 
incompatibility  of  labor  and  genius ;  and  therefore,  from 
the  fear  of  being  thought  dull,  they  have  thought  it  nec- 
essary to  remain  ignorant.  I  have  seen,  at  school  and 
at  college,  a  great  many  young  men  completely  de- 
stroyed by  having  been  so  unfortunate  as  to  produce  an 
excellent  copy  of  verses.  Their  genius  being  now 
established,  all  that  remained  for  them  to  do  was,  to  act 
up  to  the  dignity  of  the  character ;  and  as  this  dignity 
consisted  in  reading  nothing  new,  in  forgetting  what, 
they  had  already  read,  and  in  pretending  to  be  ac- 
quainted with  all  subjects  by  a  sort  of  off-hand  exertion 
of  talents,  they  soon  collapsed  into  the  most  frivolous 
and  insignificant  of  men.  "  When  we  have  had  con- 
tinually before  us,"   says   Sir   Joshua  Reynolds,   "  the 


ON  THE  CONDUCT  OF  THE  UNDERSTANDING.     97 

great  works  of  art,  to  impregnate  our  minds  with  kin- 
dred ideas,  we  are  then,  and  not  till  then,  fit  to  produce 
something  of  the  same  species.  We  behold  all  about  us 
with  the  eyes  of  those  penetrating  observers  whose 
works  we  contemplate ;  and  our  minds,  accustomed  to 
think  the  thoughts  of  the  noblest  and  brightest  intellects, 
are  prepared  for  the  discovery  and  selection  of  all  that  is 
great  and  noble  in  nature.  The  greatest  natural  genius 
can  not  subsist  on  its  own  stock :  he  who  resolves  never 
to  ransack  any  mind  but  his  own,  will  be  soon  reduced 
from  mere  barrenness  to  the  poorest  of  all  imitations ; — 
he  will  be  obliged  to  imitate  himself,  and  to  repeat  what 
he  has  before  repeated.  When  we  know  the  subject 
designed  by  such  men,  it  will  never  be  difficult  to  guess 
what  kind  of  work  is  to  be  produced."  There  is  but 
one  method,  and  that  is  hard  labor;  and  a  man  who  will 
not  pay  that  price  for  distinction,  had  better  at  once 
dedicate  himself  to  the  pursuits  of  the  fox, — or  sport 
with  the  tangles  of  Nesera's  hair, — or  talk  of  bullocks, 
and  glory  in  the  goad  !  There  are  many  modes  of  being 
frivolous,  and  not  a  few  of  being  useful ;  there  is  but  one 
mode  of  being  intellectually  great. 

It  would  be  an  extremely  profitable  thing  to  draw  up 
a  short  and  well-authenticated  account  of  the  habits  of 
study  of  the  most  celebrated  writers  with  whose  style  of 
literary  industry  we  happen  to  be  most  acquainted.  It 
would  go  very  far  to  destroy  the  absurd  and  pernicious 
association  of  genius  and  idleness,  by  showing  them  that 
the  greatest  poets,  orators,  statesmen,  and  historians, — 
men  of  the  most  brilliant  and  imposing  talents, — have 
actually  labored  as  hard  as  the  makers  of  dictionaries 
and  the  arrangers  of  indexes  ;  and  that  the  most  ob- 
vious reason  why  they  have  been  superior  to  other  men 
is,  that  they  have  taken  more  pains  than  other  men. 
Gibbon  was  in  his  study  every  morning,  winter  and 
summer,  at  6  o'clock  ;  Mr.  Burke  was  the  most  laborious 
and  indefatigable  of  human  beings  ;  Leibnitz  was  never 
out  of  his  library  ;  Pascal  killed  himself  by  study  ;  Cicero 
narrowly  escaped  death  by  the  same  cause  ;  Milton  was 
at  his  books  with  as  much  regularity  as  a  merchant  or 
an  attornev, — he  had  mastered  all  the  knowledge  of  his 

E  8 


98  LECTURE    IX. 

time  ;  so  had  Homer.  Raffaelle  lived  but  thirty-seven 
years  ;  and  in  that  short  space  carried  the  art  so  far 
beyond  what  it  had  before  reached,  that  he  appears  to 
stand  alone  as  a  model  to  his  successors.  There  are 
instances  to  the  contrary  ;  but,  generally  speaking,  the 
life  of  all  truly  great  men  has  been  a  life  of  intense  and 
incessant  labor.  They  have  commonly  passed  the  first 
half  of  life  in  the  gross  darkness  of  indigent  humility, 
— overlooked,  mistaken,  contemned,  by  weaker  men, — 
thinking  while  others  slept,  reading  while  others  rioted, 
feeling  something  within  them  that  told  them  they 
should  not  always  be  kept  down  among  the  dregs  of  the 
world  ;  and  then,  when  their  time  was  come,  and  some 
little  accident  has  given  them  their  first  occasion,  they 
have  burst  out  into  the  light  and  glory  of  public  life, 
rich  with  the  spoils  of  time,  and  mighty  in  all  the  labors 
and  struggles  of  the  mind.  Then  do  the  multitude  cry 
out  "  a  miracle  of  genius  !"  Yes,  he  is  a  miracle  of 
genius,  because  he  is  a  miracle  of  labor  ;  because  in- 
stead of  trusting  to  the  resources  of  his  own  single  mind, 
he  has  ransacked  a  thousand  minds ;  because  he  makes 
use  of  the  accumulated  wisdom  of  ages,  and  takes  as  his 
point  of  departure  the  very  last  line  and  boundary  to 
which  science  has  advanced  ;  because  it  has  ever  been 
the  object  of  his  life  to  assist  every  intellectual  gift  of 
nature,  however  munificent,  and  however  splendid,  with 
every  resource  that  art  could  suggest,  and  every  atten- 
tion diligence  could  bestow. 

If  we  are  to  read,  it  is  a  very  important  rule  in  the 
conduct  of  the  understanding,  that  we  should  accustom 
the  mind  to  keep  the  best  company,  by  introducing  it 
only  to  the  best  books.  But  there  is  a  sort  of  vanity 
some  men  have,  of  talking  of,  and  reading,  obscure  half- 
forgotten  authors,  because  it  passes  as  a  matter  of  course, 
that  he  who  quotes  authors  which  are  so  little  read,  must 
be  completely  and  thoroughly  acquainted  with  those 
authors  which  are  in  every  man's  mouth.  For  instance, 
it  is  very  common  to  quote  Shakspeare  ;  but  it  makes  a 
sort  of  stare  to  quote  Massinger.  I  have  very  little 
credit  for  being  well  acquainted  with  Virgil ;  but  if  I 
quote  Silius  Italicus,  I  may  stand  some  chance  of  being 


ON  THE  CONDUCT  OF  THE  UNDERSTANDING.     99 

reckoned  a  great  scholar.  In  short,  whoever  wishes  to 
strike  out  of  the  great  road,  and  to  make  a  short  cut  to 
fame,  let  him  neglect  Homer,  and  Virgil,  and  Horace, 
and  Ariosto,  and  Milton,  and,  instead  of  these,  read  and 
talk  of  Fracastorius,  Sannazarius,  Lorenzini,  Pastorini, 
and  the  thirty-six  primary  sonneteers  of  Bettinelli ; — 
let  him  neglect  every  thing  which  the  suffrage  of  ages 
has  made  venerable  and  grand,  and  dig  out  of  their 
graves  a  set  of  decayed  scribblers,  whom  the  silent  ver- 
dict of  the  public  has  fairly  condemned  to  everlasting 
oblivion.  If  he  complain  of  the  injustice  with  which 
they  have  been  treated,  and  call  for  a  new  trial  with 
loud  and  importunate  clamor,  though  I  am  afraid  he 
will  not  make  much  progress  in  the  estimation  of  men 
of  sense,  he  will  be  sure  to  make  some  noise  in  the  crowd, 
and  to  be  dubbed  a  man  of  very  curious  and  extraordi- 
nary erudition. 

Then  there  is  another  piece  of  foppery  which  is  to  be 
cautiously  guarded  against — the  foppery  of  universality, 
— of  knowing  all  sciences  and  excelling  in  all  arts, — 
chemistry,  mathematics,  algebra,  dancing,  history,  rea- 
soning, riding,  fencing,  Low  Dutch,  High  Dutch,  natural 
philosophy,  and  enough  Spanish  to  talk  about  Lope  de 
Vega :  in  short,  the  modern  precept  of  education  very 
often  is,  "  Take  the  Admirable  Crichton  for  your  model ; 
I  would  have  you  ignorant  of  nothing !"  Now  my  advice, 
on  the  contrary,  is,  to  have  the  courage  to  be  ignorant 
of  a  great  number  of  things,  in  order  to  avoid  the 
calamity  of  being  ignorant  of  every  thing.  I  would 
exact  of  a  young  man  a  pledge  that  he  would  never  read 
Lope  de  Vega ;  he  should  pawn  to  me  his  honor  to  ab- 
stain from  Bettinelli,  and  his  thirty-five  original  sonnet- 
eers ;  and  I  would  exact  from  him  the  most  rigid  securi- 
ties that  I  was  never  to  hear  any  thing  about  that  race 
of  penny  poets  who  lived  in  the  reigns  of  Cosmo  and 
Lorenzo  di  Medici. 

I  know  a  gentleman  of  the  law  who  has  a  thorough 
knowledge  of  fortifications,  and  whose  acquaintance 
with  bastions,  and  counterscarps,  and  parallels,  is  per- 
fectly astonishing.  How  impossible  it  is  for  any  man 
not  professionally  engaged  in  such  pursuits  to  evince  a 


100  LECTURE    IX. 

thorough  acquaintance  with  them,  without  lowering  him- 
self in  the  estimation  of  every  man  of  understanding  who 
hears  him  !  How  thoroughly  aware  must  all  such  men 
be,  that  the  time  dedicated  to  such  idle  knowledge  has 
been  lost  to  the  perfection  of  those  mental  habits,  any 
one  of  which  is  better  than  the  most  enormous  load  of 
ill- arranged  facts ! 

It  is  not  only  necessary  that  a  man  should  choose  the 
best  books,  to  whatever  department  of  knowledge  he 
desires  to  dedicate  himself,  but  it  is  expedient  he  should 
aim  at  the  highest  departments  of  knowledge, — that  he 
should  not  content  himself,  as  some  men  are  apt  to  do, 
throughout  the  whole  of  his  life,  with  his  school  habits 
of  acquiring  languages  and  cultivating  imagination,  but 
that  he  should  attend  to  the  principles  of  civil  policy, — 
the  practices  by  which  nations  become  rich,  the  rules  by 
which  their  relations  with  other  countries  should  be 
arranged ;  the  intellectual  nature  of  man, — of  what  his 
understanding  consists,  and  what  are  the  great  facts 
observable  of  his  active  and  moral  powers.  I  venerate 
the  ancient  languages,  and  our  English  universities 
where  they  are  preserved,  as  much  as  man  can  do  ;  but 
I  really  do  not  see  why  at  least  a  co-ordinate  importance 
might  not  be  given  to  subjects  of  such  value  as  those  of 
which  I  have  been  speaking. 

In  looking  to  the  effects  of  education  upon  after-life 
(which  is  the  only  mode  of  determining  whether  educa- 
tion is  good  or  bad),  I  do  allow  it  to  be  of  great  conse- 
quence that  a  young  man  should  be  a  good  scholar  ;  but 
I  also  beg  leave  humbly  to  contend,  that  it  is  not  with- 
out its  beneficial  consequences,  that  the  minds  of  our 
young  men  may  be  early  awakened  to  such  subjects  as 
the  philosophy  of  law,  the  philosophy  of  commerce,  the 
philosophy  of  the  human  mind,  and  the  philosophy  of 
political  government.  If  an  equal  chance  be  given  to 
these  subjects  and  to  the  classics,  if  they  are  all  equally 
honored  and  rewarded,  the  original  diversities  and  ca- 
prices of  nature  will  determine  a  sufficient  number  of 
minds  to  each  channel ;  on  the  contrary,  if  a  young  man, 
from  his  earliest  days,  hears  nothing  held  in  honor  and 
estimation  but  classical  reading, — if  we  have  no  other 


ON  THE  CONDUCT  OP  THE  UNDERSTANDING.    101 

idea  of  ignorance  than  false  quantities,  and  no  other  idea 
of  excellence  than  mellifluous  longs  and  shorts,  the  bias 
of  his  mind  is  fixed, — his  line  of  distinction  is  taken  ;  he 
either  despises  these  sciences  because  he  knows  them 
not,  or,  if  he  have  the  ability  to  discover  his  deficiencies, 
and  the  candor  to  own  them,  he  feels  the  want  of  that 
early  determination,  that  instinctive  zeal,  which  no  cir- 
cumstance in  after-life  can  ever  divert  or  extinguish. 

We  do  not  want  readers,  for  the  number  of  readers 
seems  to  be  very  much  upon  the  increase,  and  mere 
readers  are  very  often  the  most  idle  of  human  beings. 
There  is  a  sort  of  feeling  of  getting  through  a  book, — of 
getting  enough  out  of  it,  perhaps,  for  the  purpose  of  con- 
versation,— which  is  the  great  cause  of  this  imperfect 
reading,  and  the  forgetfulness  which  is  the  consequence 
of  it :  whereas  the  ambition  of  a  man  of  parts  should  be, 
not  to  know  books,  but  things  ;  not  to  show  other  men 
that  he  has  read  Locke,  and  Montesquieu,  and  Bec- 
caria,  and  Dumont,  but  to  show  them  that  he  knows  the 
subjects  on  which  Locke  and  Beccaria  and  Dumont 
have  written.  It  is  no  more  necessary  that  a  man  should 
remember  the  different  dinners  and  suppers  which  have 
made  him  healthy,  than  the  different  books  which  have 
made  him  wise.  Let  us  see  the  result  of  good  food  in 
a  strong  body,  and  the  result  of  great  reading  in  a  full 
and  powerful  mind. 

If  you  measure  the  value  of  study  by  the  insight  you 
get  into  subjects,  not  by  the  power  of  saying  you  have 
read  many  books,  you  will  soon  perceive  that  no  time  is 
so  badly  saved,  as  that  which  is  saved  by  getting  through 
a  book  in  a  hurry.  For  if,  to  the  time  you  have  given, 
you  had  added  a  little  more,  the  subject  would  have  been 
fixed  on  your  mind,  and  the  whole  time  profitably  employ- 
ed ;  whereas,  upon  your  present  arrangement,  because 
you  would  not  give  a  little  more,  you  have  lost  all.  Be- 
sides, this  is  overlooked  by  rapid  and  superficial  readers, 
— that  the  best  way  of  reading  books  with  rapidity  is,  to 
acquire  that  habit  of  severe  attention  to  what  they  con- 
tain, that  perpetually  confines  the  mind  to  the  single  ob- 
ject it  has  in  view.  When  you  have  read  enough  to 
have   acquired  the   habit  of  reading  without   suffering 


102  LECTURE    IX. 

your  mind  to  wander,  and  when  you  can  bring  to  bear 
upon  your  subject  a  great  share  of  previous  knowledge, 
you  may  then  read  with  rapidity :  before  that,  as  you 
have  taken  the  wrong  road,  the  faster  you  proceed  the 
more  you  will  be  sure  to  err.  Upon  this  subject  of  the 
wandering  of  the  mind,  I  shall  read  a  passage  from  Mr. 
Locke.  "  That  there  is  constant  succession  and  flux  of 
ideas  in  our  minds,  I  have  observed  in  the  former  part 
of  this  Essay,  and  every  one  may  take  notice  of  it  him- 
self. This,  I  suppose,  may  deserve  some  part  of  our 
care,  in  the  conduct  of  our  understandings ;  and  I  think 
it  may  be  of  great  advantage,  if  we  can,  by  use,  get  that 
power  over  our  minds  as  to  be  able  to  direct  that  train  of 
ideas,  that  so,  since  there  will  no  new  ones  perpetually 
come  into  our  thoughts  by  a  constant  succession,  we 
may  be  able,  by  choice,  so  to  direct  them,  that  none  may 
come  in  view  but  such  as  are  pertinent  to  our  present  in- 
quiry, and  in  such  order  as  may  be  most  useful  to  the  dis- 
covery we  are  upon  ;  or,  at  least,  if  some  foreign  and  un- 
sought ideas  will  offer  themselves,  that  yet  we  might  be 
able  to  reject  them,  and  keep  them  from  taking  off  our 
minds  from  its  present  pursuit,  and  hinder  them  from  run- 
ning away  with  our  thoughts  quite  from  the  subject  in 
hand."* 

A  sincere  attachment  to  truth,  moral  and  scientific,  is 
a  habit  which  cures  a  thousand  little  infirmities  of  mind, 
and  is  as  honorable  to  a  man  who  possesses  it,  in  point 
of  character,  as  it  is  profitable  in  point  of  improvement. 
There  is  nothing  more  beautiful  in  science  than  to  hear 
any  man  candidly  owning  his  ignorance.  It  is  so  little 
the  habit  of  men  who  cultivate  knowledge  to  do  so, — 
they  so  often  have  recourse  to  subterfuge,  nonsense,  or 
hypothesis,  rather  than  to  a  plain  manly  declaration, 
either  that  they  themselves  do  not  understand  the  sub- 
ject, or  that  the  subject  is  not  understood, — that  it  is  re- 
ally quite  refreshing  to  witness  such  instances  of  philo- 
sophical candor,  and  it  creates  an  immediate  preposses- 
sion in  favor  of  the  person  in  whom  it  is  observed. 

Next  to  this  we  have  the  abuse  of  words,  and  the  fal- 

*    Vol.  iii.  p.  410. 


ON  THE  CONDUCT  OF  THE  UNDERSTANDING.    103 

lacy  of  associations ;  compared  with  which,  all  other 
modes  of  misconducting  the  understanding  are  insignifi- 
cant and  trivial.  What  do  you  mean  by  what  you  say  ? 
Are  you  prepared  to  give  a  clear  account  of  words  which 
you  use  so  positively,  and  by  the  help  of  which  you  form 
opinions  that  you  seem  resolved  to  maintain  at  all  haz- 
ards ?  Perhaps  I  should  astonish  many  persons  by  put- 
ting to  them  such  sort  of  questions  : — Do  you  know  what 
is  meant  by  the  word  nature  ?  Have  you  definite  no- 
tions of  justice  ?  How  do  you  explain  the  word  chance  ? 
What  is  virtue  ?  Men  are  every  day  framing  the  rash- 
est  propositions  on  such  sort  of  subjects,  and  prepared 
to  kill  and  to  die  in  their  defense.  They  never,  for  a 
single  instant,  doubt  of  the  meaning  of  that,  which  was 
embarrassing  to  Locke,  and  in  which  Leibnitz  and  Des- 
cartes were  never  able  to  agree.  Ten  thousand  people 
have  been  burned  before  now,  or  hanged,  for  one  proposi- 
tion. The  proposition  has  no  meaning.  Looked  into  and 
examined  in  these  days,  it  is  absolute  nonsense.  A  man 
quits  his  country  in  disgust  at  some  supposed  violation 
of  its  liberties,  sells  his  estates,  and  settles  in  America. 
Twenty  years  afterward,  it  occurs  to  him,  that  he  had 
never  reflected  upon  the  meaning  of  the  word, — that  he 
has  packed  up  his  goods  and  changed  his  country  for  a 
sound. 

Fortitude,  justice,  and  candor,  are  very  necessary  in- 
struments of  happiness  ;  but  they  require  time  and  exer- 
tion. The  instruments  I  am  now  proposing  to  you  you 
must  not  despise — gramma?*,  definition,  and  interpreta- 
tion— instruments  which  overturn  the  horrible  tyranny 
of  adjectives  and  substantives,  and  free  the  mind  from 
the  chains  of  that  logocracy  in  which  it  is  so  frequent- 
ly enslaved,  Now  have  the  goodness  to  observe  what  I 
mean.  If  you  choose  to  quarrel  with  your  eldest  son, 
do  it ;  if  you  are  determined  to  be  disgusted  with  the 
world,  and  to  go  and  live  in  Westmoreland,  do  so ;  if 
you  are  resolved  to  quit  your  country  and  settle  in  Amer- 
ica, go ! — only,  when  you  have  settled  the  reasons  upon 
which  you  take  one  or  the  other  of  these  steps,  have  the 
goodness  to  examine  whether  the  words  in  which  those 
reasons  are  contained  have  really  any  distinct  meaning; 


104  LECTURE    IX. 

and  if  you  find  they  have  not,  embrace  your  first-born, 
forget  America,  unloose  your  packages,  and  remain 
where  you  are ! 

There  are  men  who  suffer  certain  barren  generalities 
to  get  the  better  of  their  understandings,  by  which  they 
try  all  their  opinions,  and  make  them  their  perpetual 
standards  of  right  and  wrong  :  as  thus — Let  us  beware 
of  novelty  ;  The  excesses  of  the  people  are  always  to  be 
feared  :  or  these  contrary  maxims — that  there  is  a 
natural  tendency  in  all  governments  to  encroach  upon 
the  liberties  of  the  people  ;  or,  that  every  thing  modern 
is  probably  an  improvement  of  antiquity.  Now  what 
can  the  use  be  of  sawing  about  a  set  of  maxims  to  which 
there  are  a  complete  set  of  antagonist  maxims  ?  For  of 
what  use  is  it  to  tell  me  that  governors  have  a  tendency 
to  encroach  upon  the  liberties  of  the  people  ?  and  is  that 
a  reason  why  you  should  throw  yourself  systematically 
in  opposition  to  the  government  ?  What  you  say  is 
very  true ;  what  you  do  is  very  foolish.  For  is  there 
not  another  maxim  quite  as  true,  that  the  excesses  of  the 
people  are  to  be  guarded  against  ?  and  does  not  one  evil 
a  priori  require  your  attention  as  well  as  another  ? 
The  business  is,  to  determine,  at  any  one  particular 
period  of  affairs,  which  is  in  danger  of  being  weakened, 
and  to  act  accordingly,  like  an  honest  and  courageous 
man ;  not  to  lie  like  a  dead  weight  at  one  end  of  the 
beam,  without  the  smallest  recollection  there  is  any 
other,  and  that  the  equilibrium  will  be  violated  alike 
whichever  extreme  shall  preponderate.  In  the  same 
manner,  a  thing  is  not  good  because  it  is  new,  or  good 
because  it  is  old ; — there  is  no  end  of  retorting  such 
equally  true  principles  :  but  it  is  good  because  it  is  fit 
for  the  purpose  for  which  it  was  intended,  and  bad  be- 
cause it  is  not. 

A  great  deal  of  talent  is  lost  to  the  world  for  the  want 
of  a  little  courage.  Every  day  sends  to  their  graves  a 
number  of  obscure  men  who  have  only  remained  obscure 
because  their  timidity  has  prevented  them  from  making 
a  first  effort ;  and  who,  if  they  could  only  have  been 
induced  to  begin,  would  in  all  probability  have  gone 
great  lengths  in  the  career  of  fame.     The  fact  is,  that 


ON  THE  CONDUCT  OF  THE  UNDERSTANDING.    105 

in  order  to  do  any  thing  in  this  world  worth  doing,  we- 
must  not  stand  shivering  on  the  bank,  and  thinking  of 
the  cold  and  the  danger,  but  jump  in  and  scramble 
through  as  well  as  we  can.  It  will  not  do  to  be  per- 
petually calculating  risks,  and  adjusting  nice  chances : 
it  did  all  very  well  before  the  Flood,  when  a  man  could 
consult  his  friends  upon  an  intended  publication  for  a 
hundred  and  fifty  years,  and  then  live  to  see  its  success 
for  six  or  seven  centuries  afterward ;  but  at  present  a 
man  waits,  and  doubts,  and  hesitates,  and  consults  his 
brother,  and  his  uncle,  and  his  first  cousins,  and  his 
particular  friends,  till  one  fine  day  he  finds  that  he  is 
sixty-five  years  of  age, — that  he  has  lost  so  much  time 
in  consulting  first  cousins  and  particular  friends,  that 
he  has  no  more  time  left  to  follow  their  advice.  There 
is  such  little  time  for  over-squeamishness  at  present,  the 
opportunity  so  easily  slips  away,  the  very  period  of  life 
at  which  a  man  chooses  to  venture,  if  ever,  is  so  con- 
fined, that  it  is  no  bad  rule  to  preach  up  the  necessity,  in 
such  instances,  of  a  little  violence  done  to  the  feelings, 
and  of  efforts  made  in  defiance  of  strict  and  sober  cal- 
culation. 

With  respect  to  that  fastidiousness  which  disturbs  the 
right  conduct  of  the  understanding,  it  must  be  observed 
that  there  are  two  modes  of  judging  of  any  thing  :  one, 
by  the  test  of  what  has  actually  been  done  in  the  same 
way  before  ;  the  other,  by  what  we  can  conceive  may  be 
done  in  that  way.  Now  this  latter  method  of  mere 
imaginary  excellence  can  hardly  be  a  just  criterion, 
because  it  may  be  in  fact  impossible  to  reduce  to  prac- 
tice what  it  is  perfectly  easy  to  conceive  :  no  man, 
before  he  has  tried,  can  tell  how  difficult  it  is  to  manage 
prejudice,  jealousy,  and  delicacy,  and  to  overcome  all 
that  friction  which  the  world  opposes  to  speculation. 
Therefore,  the  fair  practical  rule  seems  to  be,  to  com- 
pare any  exertion,  by  all  similar  exertions  which  have 
preceded  it,  and  to  allow  merit  to  any  one  wTho  has 
improved,  or,  at  least,  who  has  not  deteriorated  the 
standard  of  excellence,  in  his  own  department  of  know- 
ledge. Fastidious  men  are  always  judging  by  the  other 
standard  ;  and,  as  the  rest  of  the  understanding  can  not 


106  LECTURE    IX. 

fill  up  in  a  century  what  the  imagination  can  sketch  out 
in  a  moment,  they  are  always  in  a  state  of  perpetual 
disappointment,  and  their  conversation  one  uniform 
tenor  of  blame.  At  the  same  time  that  I  say  this,  I  beg 
leave  to  lift  up  both  my  hands  against  that  pernicious 
facility  of  temper,  in  the  estimation  of  which  every  thing 
is  charming  and  delightful.  Among  the  smaller  duties 
of  life  I  hardly  know  any  one  more  important  than  that 
of  not  praising  where  praise  is  not  due.  Reputation  is 
one  of  the  prizes  for  which  men  contend :  it  is,  as  Mr. 
Burke  calls  it,  "  the  cheap  defense  and  ornament  of 
nations,  and  the  nurse  of  manly  exertions ;"  it  produces 
more  labor  and  more  talent  than  twice  the  wealth  of  a 
country  could  ever  rear  up.  It  is  the  coin  of  genius  ; 
and  it  is  the  imperious  duty  of  every  man  to  bestow  it 
with  the  most  scrupulous  justice  and  the  wisest  economy. 
I  am  about  to  recommend  a  practice  in  the  conduct 
of  the  understanding  which  I  dare  say  will  be  strongly 
objected  to,  by  many  men  of  the  world  who  may  over- 
hear it,  and  that  is,  the  practice  of  arguing,  or,  if  that 
be  a  word  in  bad  repute,  of  discussing.  But  then  I  have 
many  limitations  to  add  to  such  recommendation.  It  is 
as  unfair  to  compel  a  man  to  discuss  with  you,  who 
can  not  play  the  game,  or  does  not  like  it,  as  it  would  be 
to  compel  a  person  to  play  at  chess  with  you  under 
similar  circumstances  :  neither  is  such  a  sort  of  exercise 
of  the  mind  suitable  to  the  rapidity  and  equal  division 
of  general  conversation.  Such  sort  of  practices  are,  of 
course,  as  ill-bred  and  as  absurd  as  it  would  be  to  pull 
out  a  grammar  and  dictionary  in  a  general  society,  and 
to  prosecute  the  study  of  a  language.  But  when  two 
men  meet  together  who  love  truth,  and  discuss  any 
difficult  point  with  good  nature  and  a  respect  for  each 
other's  understandings,  it  always  imparts  a  high  degree 
of  steadiness  and  certainty  to  our  knowledge  ;  or,  what 
is  nearly  of  equal  value,  and  certainly  of  greater  diffi- 
culty, it  convinces  us  of  our  ignorance.  It  is  an  exer- 
cise grossly  abused  by  those  who  have  recourse  to  it, 
and  is  very  apt  to  degenerate  into  a  habit  of  perpetual 
contradiction,  which  is  the  most  tiresome  and  most 
disgusting  in  all  the  catalogue  of  imbecilities.     It  is  an 


O^N  THE  CONDUCT  OF  THE  UNDERSTANDING.    107 

exercise  which  timid  men  dread, — from  which  irritable 
men  ought  to  abstain  ;  but  which,  in  my  humble  opinion, 
advances  a  man,  who  is  calm  enough  for  it,  and  strong 
enough  for  it,  Jar  beyond  any  other  method  of  employing 
the  mind.  Indeed,  a  promptitude  to  discuss,  is  so  far  a 
proof  of  a  sound  mind,  that,  whenever  we  feel  pain  and 
alarm  at  our  opinions  being  called  in  question,  it  is 
almost  a  certain  sign  that  they  have  been  taken  up 
without  examination,  or  that  the  reasons  which  once 
determined  our  judgment  have  vanished  away. 

I  direct  these  observations  only  to  those  who  are 
capable  of  discussing ;  for  there  are  many  who  have  not 
the  quickness  and  the  presence  of  mind  necessary  for  it, 
and  who,  in  consequence,  must  be  compelled  to  yield 
their  opinions  to  the  last  speaker.  And  there  is  no 
question,  that  it  is  far  preferable  to  remain  under  the 
influence  of  moderate  errors,  than  to  be  bandied  about 
for  the  whole  of  life  from  one  opinion  to  another,  at 
the  pleasure,  and  for  the  sport  of  superior  intelligence. 

But  other  men's  understandings  are  to  be  made  use 
of,  in  the  conduct  of  your  own,  in  many  other  methods 
than  in  that  of  discussion.  Lord  Bacon  says,  that  to 
enter  into  the  kingdom  of  knowledge,  we  must  put  on 
the  spirit  of  little  children ;  and  if  he  means  that  we  are 
to  submit  to  be  taught  by  whoever  can,  or  will  teach  us, 
it  is  a  habit  of  mind  which  leads  to  very  rapid  improve- 
ment; because  a  person  who  possesses  it  is  always 
putting  himself  in  a  train  to  correct  his  prejudices,  and 
dissolve  his  unphilosophical  associations.  The  truth  is, 
that  most  men  want  knowledge,  not  for  itself,  but  for  the 
superiority  which  knowledge  confers ;  and  the  means 
they  employ  to  secure  this  superiority,  are  as  wrong  as 
the  ultimate  object,  for  no  man  can  ever  end  with  being 
superior,  who  will  not  begin  with  being  inferior.  The 
readiest  way  of  founding  that  empire  of  talent  and 
knowledge  which  is  the  mistaken  end  such  men  propose 
to  themselves  of  knowledge,  is,  patiently  to  gather  from 
every  understanding  that  will  impart  them,  the  materials 
of  your  future  power  and  importance.  There  are  some 
sayings  in  our  language  about  merit  being  always  united 
with  modesty,  &c.  (I  suppose  because  they  both  begin 


103  LECTURE    IX. 

with  an  m,  for  alliteration  has  a  great  power  over 
proverbs,  and  proverbs  over  public  opinion) ;  but  I  fancy 
that  in  the  majority  of  instances,  the  fact  is  directly  the 
reverse, — that  talents  and  arrogance  are  commonly 
united,  and  that  most  clever  young  men  of  eighteen  or 
nineteen  believe  themselves  to  be  about  the  level  of 
Demosthenes,  or  Virgil,  or  the  Admirable  Crichton,  or 
John  Duke  of  Marlborough  :  but  whatever  the  fact  be 
with  respect  to  modesty,  and  omitting  all  the  popularity 
and  policy  of  modesty,  I  am  sure  modesty  is  a  part  of 
talent ;  that  a  certain  tendency  to  hear  what  others  have 
to  say,  and  to  give  it  its  due  weight  and  importance,  is 
quite  as  valuable  as  it  is  amiable ;  that  it  is  a  vast 
promoter  of  knowledge  ;  and  that  the  contrary  habit  of 
•general  contempt,  is  a  very  dangerous  practice  in  the 
conduct  of  the  understanding.  It  exists,  I  am  afraid, 
commonly  in  the  minds  of  able  men,  but  they  would  be 
much  better  without  it. 

As  for  general  skepticism,  the  only  way  to  avoid  it  is, 
to  seize  on  some  first  principles  arbitrarily,  and  not  to 
quit  them.  Take  as  few  as  you  can  help, — about  a 
tenth  part  of  what  Dr.  Reid  has  taken  will  suffice, — but 
take  some,  and  proceed  to  build  upon  them.  As  I  have 
before  mentioned,  the  leading  principle  of  Descartes' 
philosophy  was,  Cogito,  ergo  sum — "  I  think,  therefore  I 
exist ;"  and  having  laid  this  foundation  stone,  he  built  an 
enormous  building,  the  ruins  of  whieh  lie  scattered  up 
and  down  among  the  sciences  in  disordered  glory  and 
venerable  confusion.  Some  of  his  disciples,  however, 
could  never  get  a  single  step  further ; — they  admitted 
their  own  existence,  but  could  never  deduce  any  one 
single  truth  from  it.  One  might  almost  wish  that  these 
gentlemen  had  disencumbered  themselves  of  this  their 
only  idea,  by  running  down  steep  places,  or  walking  very 
far  into  profound  ponds,  rather  than  that  they  should 
exhibit  such  a  spectacle  of  stupidity  and  perversion. 

Such  sort  of  questions  as  the  credibility  of  memory, 
and  personal  identity,  are  not  merely  innocent  subtilties. 
I  admit  it  is  quite  impossible  in  practice  to  disbelieve 
either  the  one  or  the  other :  but  they  excite  a  suspicion 
of  the  perfect  uncertainty  of  all  knowledge :    and  they 


ON  THE  CONDUCT  OF  THE  UNDERSTANDING.    109 

often  keep  young  men  hesitating  and  quibbling  about  the 
rudiments  of  all  knowledge,  instead  of  pushing  on  their 
inquiries  with  cheerfulness  and  vigor.  I  am  sure  I  am 
not  stating  an  ideal  evil ;  but  I  know  from  actual  experi- 
ence, that  many  understandings  have  been  retarded  for 
years  in  their  prosecution  of  solid  and  valuable  knowledge, 
because  they  could  see  no  evidence  for  first  principles, 
and  were  unable  to  prove  that  which,  by  the  very  mean- 
ing of  the  expression,  must  be  incapable  of  all  proof. 
They  considered  the  whole  as  an  unstable  and  unphilo- 
sophical  fabric,  and  contracted  either  an  indifference  to,  or 
contempt  for,  truth.  And  if  you  choose  to  call  all 
knowledge  hypothetical,  because  first  principles  are 
arbitrarily  assumed,  you  certainly  may  call  it  so,  if  you 
please ;  but  then  I  only  contend  that  it  does  quite  as 
well  as  if  it  were  not  hypothetical,  because  all  the  various 
errors  agree  perfectly  well  together,  and  produce  that 
happiness  which  is  the  end  of  knowledge. 

It  is  a  very  wise  rule  in  the  conduct  of  the  under- 
standing, to  acquire  early  a  correct  notion  of  your  own 
peculiar  constitution  of  mind,  and  to  become  well  ac- 
quainted, as  a  physician  would  say,  with  your  idiosyn- 
crasy. Are  you  an  acute  man,  and  see  sharply  for 
small  distances  ?  or  are  you  a  comprehensive  man,  and 
able  to  take  in  wide  and  extensive  views  into  your  mind  ? 
Does  your  mind  turn  its  ideas  into  wit  ?  or  are  you  apt 
to  take  a  common-sense  view  of  the  objects  presented  to 
you  ?  Have  you  an  exuberant  imagination,  or  a  correct 
judgment  ?  Are  you  quick,  or  slow  ?  accurate,  or  hasty  ? 
a  great  reader,  or  a  great  thinker?  It  is  a  prodigious 
point  gained  if  any  man  can  find  out  where  his  powers 
lie,  and  what  are  his  deficiencies, — if  he  can  contrive  to 
ascertain  what  Nature  intended  him  for :  and  such  are 
the  changes  and  chances  of  the  world,  and  so  difficult  is 
it  to  ascertain  our  own  understandings,  or  those  of 
others,  that  most  things  are  done  by  persons  who  could 
have  done  something  else  better.  If  you  choose  to 
represent  the  various  parts  in  life  by  holes  upon  a  table, 
of  different  shapes, — some  circular,  some  triangular, 
some  square,  some  oblong, — and  the  persons  acting  these 
parts  by  bits  of  wood  of  similar  shapes,  we  shall  generally 


110  LECTURE    IX. 

find  that  the  triangular  person  has  got  into  the  square 
hole,  the  oblong  into  the  triangular,  and  a  square  person 
has  squeezed  himself  into  the  round  hole.  The  officer 
and  the  office,  the  doer  and  the  thing  done,  seldom  fit  so 
exactly,  that  we  can  say  they  were  almost  made  for 
each  other. 

But  while  I  am  descanting  so  minutely  upon  the  con- 
duct of  the  understanding,  and  the  best  modes  of  ac- 
quiring knowledge,  some  men  may  be  disposed  to  ask, 
"  Why  conduct  my  understanding  with  such  endless 
care  ?  and  what  is  the  use  of  so  much  knowledge  ?" 
What  is  the  use  of  so  much  knowledge  ? — what  is  the  use 
of  so  much  life  ! — what  are  we  to  do  with  the  seventy 
years  of  existence  allotted  to  us  ? — and  how  are  we  to 
live  them  out  to  the  last  ?  I  solemnly  declare  that,  but 
for  the  love  of  knowledge,  I  should  consider  the  life  of 
the  meanest  hedger  and  ditcher,  as  preferable  to  that  of 
the  greatest  and  richest  man  here  present :  for  the  fire 
of  our  minds  is  like  the  fire  which  the  Persians  burn  in 
the  mountains, — it  flames  night  and  day,  and  is  immortal, 
and  not  to  be  quenched  !  Upon  something  it  must  act 
and  feed, — upon  the  pure  spirit  of  knowledge,  or  upon 
the  foul  dregs  of  polluting  passions.  Therefore,  when  I 
say,  in  conducting  your  understanding,  love  knowledge 
with  a  great  love,  with  a  vehement  love,  with  a  love 
coeval  with  life,  what  do  I  say,  but  love  innocence, — 
love  virtue, — love  purity  of  conduct, — love  that  which, 
if  you  are  rich  and  great,  will  sanctify  the  blind  fortune 
which  has  made  you  so,  and  make  men  call  it  justice,— 
love  that  which,  if  you  are  poor,  will  render  your 
poverty  respectable,  and  make  the  proudest  feel  it  unjust 
to  laugh  at  the  meanness  of  your  fortunes, — love  that 
which  will  comfort  you,  adorn  you,  and  never  quit 
you, — which  will  open  to  you  the  kingdom  of  thought, 
and  all  the  boundless  regions  of  conception,  as  an  asylum 
against  the  cruelty,  the  injustice,  and  the  pain  that  may 
be  your  lot  in  the  outer  world, — that  which  will  make 
your  motives  habitually  great  and  honorable,  and  light 
up  in  an  instant  a  thousand  noble  disdains  at  the  very 
thought  of  meanness  and  of  fraud !  Therefore,  if  any 
young  man  here  have  embarked  his  life  in  pursuit  of 


ON  THE  CONDUCT  OF  THE  UNDERSTANDING.    Ill 

knowledge,  let  him  go  on  without  doubting  or  fearing 
the  event ; — let  him  not  be  intimidated  by  the  cheerless 
beginnings  of  knowledge,  by  the  darkness  from  which 
she  springs,  by  the  difficulties  which  hover  around  her, 
by  the  wretched  habitations  in  which  she  dwells,  by  the 
want  and  sorrow  which  sometimes  journey  in  her  train ; 
but  let  him  ever  follow  her  as  the  Angel  that  guards 
him,  and  as  the  Genius  of  his  life.  She  will  bring  him 
out  at  last  into  the  light  of  day,  and  exhibit  him  to  the 
world  comprehensive  in  acquirements,  fertile  in  resources, 
rich  in  imagination,  strong  in  reasoning,  prudent  and 
powerful  above  his  fellows,  in  all  the  relations  and  in  all 
the  offices  of  life. 


LECTURE  X. 

ON   WIT  AND  HUMOR. 

The  question  I  have  very  often  had  asked  me  respect- 
ing the  present  subject  of  my  lecture  is,  what  has  Wit 
to  do  with  Moral  Philosophy  ?  Little  or  nothing,  cer- 
tainly, if  Moral  Philosophy  is  merely  understood  prac- 
tical Moral  Philosophy,  or  Ethics  ;  but  if  the  term  be 
taken  as  it  universally  is  wherever  Moral  Philosophy  is 
taught, — as  in  contradistinction  to  Physical  Philosophy, 
or  the  philosophy  which  concerns  itself  with  the  laws  of 
the  material  world, — then  Moral  Philosophy  will  include 
every  thing  which  relates  to  the  human  mind — of  which 
mind  these  phenomena  of  wit  and  humor  are  very  strik- 
ing peculiarities.  But  if,  though  allowed  to  appertain  to 
Moral  Philosophy  because  they  appertain  to  the  human 
mind,  they  shoufd  be  considered  as  very  frivolous  parts 
of  that  science,  this  must  not,  on  any  account,  be  allow- 
ed to  pass  for  truth.  The  feeling  of  the  ridiculous  pro- 
duces an  immense  effect  upon  human  affairs.  It  is  so 
far  from  being  powerless  or  unimportant,  that  it  has  a 
strong  tendency  to  overpower  even  truth,  justice,  and  all 
those  high-born  qualities  which  have  the  lawful  mastery 
of  the  human  mind. 

Such  sort  of  subjects  are  no  less  difficult  than  they  are 
important.  I  may  not  always  speak  on  them  with  the 
forms  of  modesty,  but  no  man  can  be  more  thoroughly  con- 
vinced that  I  am,  of  the  difficulty  with  which  such  inves- 
tigations are  attended,  and  of  the  folly  of  dogmatizing 
upon  topics  where  the  best  understandings  may  arrive, 
and  have  arrived,  at  very  opposite  conclusions.  In  ad- 
dition to  this  plea  for  indulgence,  it  so  happens  this  year 
that  I  am  extremely  ill  prepared  for  what  I  have  under- 


ON    WIT    AND    HUMOR.  113 

taken.  To  read  lectures  upon  Moral  Philosophy  is  not 
a  very  easy  thing  under  any  circumstances  ; — to  read 
them  before  a  mixed  audience  of  both  sexes,  and  for  the 
first  time,  are  accidents  which  do  not  come  in  diminu- 
tion of  that  difficulty.  These  difficulties  are  best  over- 
come by  a  little  practice.  The  same  indulgence  should 
be  extended  to  young  lecturers  and  young  professors  that 
is  extended  to  the  young  of  all  other  animals, — who  can 
not  reasonably  be  supposed  to  have  arrived  at  the  top  of 
their  cunning,  or  to  have  reached  the  perfection  of  their 
strength.  I  shall  only  advertise  my  hearers,  that  when 
I  have  finished  this  lecture  I  have  not  finished  this  sub- 
ject ; — I  shall  have  a  great  deal  more  to  say  upon  it  in 
my  next  lecture,  and  the  two  must  be  taken  together,  in 
order  to  analyze  the  ridiculous,  and,  perhaps,  as  some 
evil-disposed  persons  may  say,  to  exemplify  it. 

"  Wit,"  says  Dr.  Barrow,  "  is  a  thing  so  subtile,  so  ver- 
satile, and  so  multiform, — appearing  in  so  many  shapes, 
so  many  postures,  and  so  many  garbs, — so  variously  ap- 
prehended by  several  eyes  and  judgments,  that  it  seem- 
eth  no  less  hard  to  settle  a  clear  and  certain  notion  there- 
of than  to  make  a  portrait  of  Proteus,  or  to  define  the 
figure  of  the  fleeting  air.  Sometime  it  lieth  in  pat  allu- 
sion to  a  known  story,  or  in  seasonable  application  of  a 
trivial  saying,  or  in  forging  an  apposite  tale  ; — sometimes 
it  playeth  in  words  and  phrases,  taking  advantage  of  the 
ambiguity  of  their  sense,  or  the  affinity  of  their  sound ; — 
sometimes  it  is  wrapped  in  a  dress  of  humorous  expres- 
sion ; — sometimes  it  lurketh  under  an  odd  similitude  ; — • 
sometimes  it  is  lodged  in  a  sly  question,  in  a  smart  an- 
swer, in  a  quirkish  reason,  in  a  shrewd  intimation,  in 
cunningly  diverting,  or  cleverly  retorting  an  objection ; 
sometimes  it  is  couched  in  a  bold  scheme  of  speech,  in  a 
tart  irony,  a  lusty  hyperbole,  a  startling  metaphor,  a 
plausible  reconciling  of  contradictions,  or  in  acute  non- 
sense ; — sometimes  a  scenical  representation  of  persons 
or  things,  a  counterfeit  speech,  a  mimical  look  or  ges- 
ture, passeth  for  it ; — sometimes  an  affected  simplicity, 
sometimes  a  presumptuous  blunt ness,  giveth  it  being  ; — 
sometimes  it  ariseth  only  from  a  lucky  hitting  upon  what 


114  LECTURE    X. 

is  strange  ; — often  it  consisteth  in  one  knows  not  what, 
and  ariseth  one  knows  not  how  :  its  ways  are  unaccount- 
able and  inexplicable,  being  answerable  to  the  number- 
less rovings  of  fancy  and  windings  of  language.  It  is,  in 
short,  a  manner  of  speaking  out  of  the  plain  way,  which, 
by  an  uncouthness  in  conceit  or  expression,  doth  amuse 
the  fancy,  stirring  in  it  some  wonder,  and  breeding  some 
delight.  It  raiseth  admiration,  as  signifying  a  nimble  sa- 
gacity of  apprehension,  a  special  felicity  of  invention,  a 
vivacity  of  spirit,  and  reach  of  wit  more  than  vulgar. 
It  seemeth  to  argue  a  rare  quickness  of  parts  that  can 
produce  such  applicable  conceits,  a  notable  skill  that  can 
dexterously  accommodate  them  to  the  purpose  before 
him,  together  with  a  lively  briskness  of  humor,  not  apt 
to  damp  those  sportful  flashes  of  imagination.  It  pro- 
cures delight,  by  gratifying  curiosity  with  its  rarity,  by 
diverting  the  mind  from  its  road  of  serious  thoughts,  by 
instilling  gayety  and  airiness  of  spirit,  and  by  seasoning 
matters,  otherwise  distasteful  and  insipid,  with  an  un- 
usual and  a  grateful  twang."  This  is  Dr.  Barrow's 
famous  definition  of  wit, — which  is  very  witty,  and 
nothing  else  !  and  in  which  the  author  has  managed  as 
a  man  would  do,  who  should  take  a  degree  in  music  by 
singing  a  song,  or  in  medicine  by  healing  a  surfeit.  He 
has  exemplified  his  subject  instead  of  explaining  it ;  and 
given  you  a  specimen,  instead  of  a  solution,  of  wit.  It 
is  surprising  what  very  little  has  been  written  in  the 
English  language  upon  this  curious  subject.  Congreve 
has  written  upon  it  in  the  same  witty  manner  as  Barrow, 
without  throwing  the  smallest  light  upon  the  nature  of 
wit.     Cowley  says, 

"  Tell  me,  oh  tell,  what  kind  of  thing  is  -wit, 
Thou  who  master  art  of  it  ? 
A  thousand  different  shapes  it  bears, 
Comely  in  thousand  shapes  appears. 
Yonder  we  see  it  plain  ;  and  here  'tis  now, 
Like  spirits,  in  a  place,  we  know  not  how." 

And  so  he  goes  on,  with  a  string  of  witty  allusions,  for 
twenty  stanzas,  in  an  ode  which  Johnson  calls  inimita- 
ble, and  which,  as  a  mere  piece  of  poetry  of  the  school 


ON     WIT    AND    HUMOR.  115 

of  the  metaphysical  poets,  certainly  is  so ;  but  has 
nothing  to  do  with  a  serious  explanation  of  the  subject. 
Dryden  says  of  wit,  that  it  is  a  propriety  of  thoughts  and 
words,  or  thoughts  and  words  elegantly  adapted  to  the 
subject ;  but  there  is  a  propriety  of  thoughts  and  words 
in  one  of  Blair's  Sermons,  which  I  never  yet  heard 
praised  for  their  wit.  And  the  thoughts  and  words  are 
elegantly  adapted  to  the  subject  in  Campbell's  "  Pleas- 
ures of  Hope,"  which  is  something  much  better  than  a 
witty  poem.     Pope  says  of  wit, 

"  True  wit  is  nature  to  advantage  drestT 
Oft  thought  before,  but  ne'er  so  -well  exprest." 

Then  the  Philippics  of  Cicero,  the  Orations  of  Demos- 
thenes, are  witty ;  Caesar's  Commentaries  are  witty  ; 
Massillon  is  one  of  the  greatest  wits  that  ever  lived  ;  the 
Oraisons  funebres  of  Bossuet  are  prodigies  of  facetious- 
ness.  Sir  Richard  Blackmore's  notion  of  wit  is,  that  it 
is  a  series  of  high  and  exalted  ferments.  It  very  possibly 
may  be  ;  but,  not  exactly  comprehending  what  is  meant 
by  "  a  series  of  high  and  exalted  ferments,"  I  do  not  think 
myself  bound  to  waste  much  time  in  criticizing  the  meta- 
physics of  this  learned  physician. 

The  first  definition  of  wit  worth  noticing  is  that  of 
Mr.  Locke,  which  I  shall  read  to  you.  "  How  much  the 
imperfection  of  accurately  discriminating  ideas  one  from 
another,  lies  either  in  the  dullness  or  faults  of  the  organs 
of  sense, — or  want  of  acuteness,  exercise,  or  attention  in 
the  understanding, — or  hastiness  and  precipitancy,  nat- 
ural to  some  tempers, — I  will  not  here  examine  :  it  suf- 
ficeth  to  take  notice,  that  this  is  one  of  the  operations 
that  the  mind  may  reflect  on  and  observe  in  itself.  It  is 
of  that  consequence  to  its  other  knowledge,  that,  so  far 
as  this  faculty  is  in  itself  dull,  or  not  rightly  made  use  of, 
for  the  distinguishing  one  thing  from  another,  so  far  our 
notions  are  confused,  and  our  reason  and  judgment  dis- 
turbed or  misled.  If,  in  having  our  ideas  in  the  memory 
ready  at  hand,  consists  quickness  of  parts, — in  this  of 
having  them  unconfused,  and  being  able  nicely  to  dis- 
tinguish one  thing  from  another,  where  there  is  but  the 


116  LECTURE    X. 

least  difference,  consists,  in  a  great  measure,  the  exact- 
ness of  judgment  and  clearness  of  reason,  which  is  to  be 
observed  in  one  man  above  another.  And  hence,  per- 
haps, may  be  given  some  reason  for  that  common  obser- 
vation, that  men  who  have  a  great  deal  of  wit,  and 
prompt  memories,  have  not  always  the  clearest  judg- 
ment or  deepest  reason :  for  wit  lying  mostly  in  the  as- 
semblage of  ideas,  and  putting  those  together  with  quick- 
ness and  variety  wherein  can  be  found  any  resemblance 
or  congruity,  whereby  to  make  up  pleasant  pictures  and 
agreeable  visions  in  the  fancy ;  judgment,  on  the  con- 
trary, lies  quite  on  the  other  side,  in  separating  carefully, 
one  from  another,  ideas  wherein  can  be  found  the  least 
difference, — thereby  to  avoid  being  misled  by  similitude, 
and  by  affinity  to  take  one  thing  for  another.  This  is  a 
way  of  proceeding  quite  contrary  to  metaphor  and  allusion, 
wherein,  for  the  most  part,  lies  that  entertainment  and 
pleasantry  of  wit  which  strikes  so  lively  on  the  fancy, 
and  therefore  is  so  acceptable  to  all  people, — because  its 
beauty  appears  at  first  sight,  and  there  is  required  no 
labor  of  thought  to  examine  what  truth  or  reason  there 
is  in  it.  The  mind,  without  looking  any  further,  rests 
satisfied  with  the  agreeableness  of  the  picture,  and  the 
gayety  of  the  fancy ;  and  it  is  a  kind  of  an  affront  to  go 
about  to  examine  it  by  the  severe  rules  of  truth  and  good 
reason,  whereby  it  appears  that  it  consists  in  something 
that  is  not  perfectly  conformable  to  them."*  Now  this 
notion  of  wit, — that  it  consists  in  putting  those  ideas  to- 
gether with  quickness  and  variety  wherein  can  be  found 
any  resemblance  or  congruity,  in  order  to  excite  pleas- 
ure in  the  mind, — is  a  little  too  comprehensive,  for  it 
comprehends  both  eloquence  and  poetry.  In  the  first 
place,  we  must  exclude  the  idea  of  their  being  put  to- 
gether quickly,  as  this  part  of  the  definition  applies  only 
to  colloquial  wit.  The  "  Avare"  and  the  "  Tartuffe"  of 
Moliere,  would  be  witty  even  though  we  knew  each  of 
those  plays  had  taken  the  author  a  year  to  compose. 
But  as  for  the  resemblance  and  congruity,  there  is  a  re- 
semblance and  congruity  in  the  well-known  picture  Mr. 

*  Works,  voL  i.  p.  60. 


ON    WIT    AND    HUMOR.  117 

Burke  has  drawn  of  the  Queen  of  France  ;  but  nobody 
can  with  any  propriety  call  it  wittf  without  degrading  it. 
The  fact  is,  that  the  combinations  of  ideas  in  which  there 
is  resemblance  and  congruity,  will  as  often  produce  the 
sublime  and  the  beautiful,  as  well  as  the  witty  ; — a  cir- 
cumstance to  which  Mr.  Locke  does  not  appear  to  have 
attended,  in  the  very  short  and  cursory  notice  he  has 
taken  of  wit.  Addison's  papers  in  the  "  Spectator"  on 
this  subject  are  more  dedicated  to  the  establishment  of  a 
good  taste  in  wit,  than  to  an  analysis  of  its  nature.  He 
adds  to  this  definition,  by  way  of  explanation,  that  it  must 
be  such  a  resemblance  as  excites  delight  and  surprise  in 
the  reader ;  but  this  still  leaves  the  account  of  wit  as  it 
found  it,  without  discriminating  the  witty  from  the  sub- 
lime and  the  beautiful,  for  many  sublime  and  beautiful 
passages  in  poetry  entirely  correspond  with  this  defini- 
tion of  wit. 

"  He  scarce  had  ceas'd,  when  the  superior  Fiend 
"Was  moving  toward  the  shore  :  his  ponderous  shield, 
Ethereal  temper,  massy,  large,  and  round, 
Behind  him  cast ;  the  broad  circumference 
Hung  on  his  shoulders  like  the  moon,  whose  orb 
Through  optic  glass  the  Tuscan  artist  views 
At  evening  from  the  top  of  Fesole, 
Or  in  Valdarno,  to  descry  new  lands, 
Eivers,  or  mountains,  in  her  spotty  globe. 
His  spear — to  equal  which  the  tallest  pine 
Hewn  on  Norwegian  hills,  to  be  the  mast 
Of  some  great  ammiral,  were  but  a  wand — 
He  walk'd  with  to  support  uneasy  steps 
Over  the  burning  marie." 

In  this  picture  there  certainly  is  an  assemblage  of  very 
grand  and  very  beautiful  images,  exciting  delight  and  sur- 
prise, and  gathered  together  expressly  for  their  resem- 
blance ;  yet  no  effect  can  be  more  distinct  from  the  feel- 
ing of  wit  than  the  effect  produced  by  these  lines. 
"  Wit,"  says  Johnson,  "  may  be  more  rigorously  and 
philosophically  considered  as  a  kind  of  concordia  discors 
— a  combination  of  dissimilar  images,  or  discovery  of 
occult  resemblances  in  things  apparently  unlike ;"  but 
if  this  be  true,  then  the  discovery  of  the  resemblance 
between  diamond  and   charcoal,  between   acidification 


118  LECTURE    X. 

and  combustion,  are  pure  pieces  of  wit,  and  full  of  the 
most  ingenious  and  exalted  pleasantry. 

It  is  very  little  worth  while  to  stop  to  examine  what 
Lord  Karnes  has  said  upon  the  subject  of  wit  and 
humor:  he  has  said  so  very  little,  and  that  little  in  so 
very  hasty  a  manner,  that  there  is  no  occasion  to  delay 
the  progress  of  the  investigation  by  dwelling  on  his 
opinions. 

The  best  account  in  our  language  of  wit  and  humor 
(as  far  as  I  know)  is  to  be  found  in  the  first  volume  of 
Campbell's  Philosophy  of  Rhetoric.  I  say  the  best, 
though  I  must  take  the  liberty  of  saying  that  there 
appears  to  me  to  be  very  material  defects  in  it.  In  the 
first  place  he  seems  to  make  precisely  the  same  mistake 
which  all  the  other  definers  and  describers  of  wit  have 
done.  "  Wit,"  he  says,  "  is  that  which  excites  agreeable 
surprise  in  the  mind,  by  the  strange  assemblage  of  re- 
lated images  presented  to  it."  Now,  this  account  of 
wit,  as  I  have  before  remarked  more  than*  once,  is  too 
extensive,  and  includes  the  sublime  and  the  beautiful. 
He  then  adds,  that  "  wit  effects  its  objects  three  ways : 
first,  in  debasing  things  pompous  ;  next  in  aggrandizing 
things  mean  ;  thirdly,  by  setting  ordinary  objects  (by 
means  not  only  remote,  but  apparently  contrary)  in  a 
particular  and  uncommon  point  of  view."  If  this  three- 
fold division  be  meant  as  a  distinguishing  criterion  of  the 
operations  of  wit,  it  fails  ;  for  eloquence  effects  all  these 
three  objects  as  well  as  wit :  and  if  it  be  meant  as  an  ex- 
haustive analysis  of  modes  of  wit,  it  is  extremely  incom- 
plete ;  for  wit  may  find  similitudes  for,  and  relations  be- 
tween, great  objects  without  debasing  them,  and  do  the 
same  with  little  objects  without  exalting  them.  I  may 
find  a  hundred  ingenious  points  of  resemblance  between 
a  black  beetle  and  a  birchen  broom,  without  adding  much 
dignity  either  to  the  insect  or  the  instrument.  I  mention 
these  objections  to  Dr.  Campbell's  Essay  because  it  is 
my  duty  to  discriminate,  though  I  repeat  again,  that,  as 
far  as  I  know,  and  upon  the  whole,  it  is  the  best  account 
of  these  subjects  extant  in  the  English  language. 

Now  to  begin  at  the  beginning  of  this  discussion,  it 
is  plain  that  wit  concerns  itself  with  the  relations  which 


ON    WIT    AND    HUMOR.  119 

subsist  between  our  ideas  :  and  the  first  observation 
which  occurs  to  any  man  turning  his  attention  to  this 
subject  is,  that  it  can  not,  of  course,  concern  itself  with 
all  the  relations  which  subsist  between  all  our  ideas  ; 
for  then  every  proposition  would  be  witty  ; — The  rain 
wets  me  through, — Butter  is  spread  upon  bread, — would 
be  propositions  replete  with  mirth ;  and  the  moment  the 
mind  observed  the  plastic  and  diffusible  nature  of  butter, 
and  the  excellence  of  bread  as  a  substratum,  it  would 
become  enchanted  with  this  flash  of  facetiousness. 
Therefore,  the  first  limit  to  be  affixed  to  that  observation 
of  relations,  which  produces  the  feeling  of  wit,  is,  that 
they  must  be  relations  which  excite  surprise.  If  you 
tell  me  that  all  men  must  die,  I  am  very  little  struck 
with  what  you  say,  because  it  is  not  an  assertion  very 
remarkable  for  its  novelty ;  but  if  you  were  to  say  that 
man  was  like  a  time-glass, — that  both  must  run  out,  and 
both  render  up  their  dust,  I  should  listen  to  you  with 
more  attention,  because  I  should  feel  something  like  sur- 
prise at  the  sudden  relation  you  had  struck  out  between 
two  such  apparently  dissimilar  ideas  as  a  man  and  a 
time-glass. 

Surprise  is  so  essential  an  ingredient  of  wit,  that  no 
wit  will  bear  repetition  ; — at  least  the  original  electrical 
feeling  produced  by  any  piece  of  wit  can  never  be  re- 
newed. There  is  a  sober  sort  of  approbation  succeeds 
at  hearing  it  the  second  time,  wThich  is  as  different  from 
its  original  rapid,  pungent  volatility,  as  a  bottle  of 
champagne  that  has  been  open  three  days  is,  from  one 
that  has  at  that  very  instant  emerged  from  the  darkness 
of  the  cellar.  To  hear  that  the  top  of  Mont  Blanc  is 
like  an  umbrella,  though  the  relation  be  new  to  me,  is 
not  sufficient  to  excite  surprise  ;  the  idea  is  so  very  ob- 
vious, it  is  so  much  within  the  reach  of  the  most  ordinary 
understandings,  that  I  can  derive  no  sort  of  pleasure  from 
the  comparison.  The  relation  discovered,  must  be  some- 
thing remote  from  all  the  common  tracks  and  sheep-walks 
made  in  the  mind ;  it  must  not  be  a  comparison  of  color 
with  color,  and  figure  with  figure,  or  any  comparison 
which,  though  individually  new,  is  specifically  stale,  and 
to  which  the  mind  has  been  in  the  habit  of  making  many 


120  LECTURE    X. 

similar ;  but  it  must  be  something  removed  from  com- 
mon apprehension,  distant  from  the  ordinary  haunts  of 
thought, — things  which  are  never  brought  together  in  the 
common  events  of  life,  and  in  which  the  mind  has  dis- 
covered relations  by  its  own  subtilty  and  quickness. 

Now,  then,  the  point  we  have  arrived  at,  at  present, 
in  building  up  our  definition  of  wit,  is,  that  it  is  the 
discovery  of  those  relations  in  ideas  which  are  calculated 
to  excite   surprise.     But  a  great  deal  must  be   taken 
away  from  this  account  of  wit  before  it  is  sufficiently 
accurate  ;  for,  in  the  first  place,  there  must  be  no  feeling 
or  conviction  of  the  utility  of  the  relation  so  discovered. 
If  you  go  to  see  a  large  cotton-mill,  the  manner  in  which 
the  large  wTater- wheel  below,  works  the  little  parts  of  the 
machinery  seven  stories  high,  the  relation  which  one 
bears  to  another,  is  extremely   surprising  to  a  person 
unaccustomed  to  mechanics  ;   but,  instead  of  feeling  as 
you  feel  at  a  piece  of  wit,  you  are  absorbed  in  the  con- 
templation of  the  utility  and  importance  of  such  rela- 
tions,— there  is   a  sort  of  rational  approbation  mingled 
with  your  surprise,  which  makes  the  whole  feeling  very 
different  from  that  of  wit.     At  the  same   time,  if  we 
attend  very  accurately  to  our  feelings,  we  shall  perceive 
that  the  discovery  of  any  surprising  relation  whatever, 
produces  some  slight  sensation  of  wit.     When  first  the 
manner  in  which  a  steam-engine  opens  and  shuts  its 
own  valves  is  explained  to  me,  or  when  I  at  first  perceive 
the  ingenious  and  complicated  contrivances  of  any  piece 
of  machinery,  the  surprise  that  I  feel  at  the  discovery  of 
these  connections  has  always   something  in  it  which 
resembles  the  feeling  of  wit,  though  that  is  very  soon 
extinguished    by    others    of    a   very   different    nature. 
Children,  who  view  the  different  parts  of  a  machine  not 
so  much  with  any  notions  of  its  utility,  feel  something 
still  more  like  the  sensation  of  wit  when  first  they  per- 
ceive the  effect  which  one  part  produces  upon  another. 
Show  a  child  of  six  years  old,  that,  by  moving  the  treadle 
of  a  knife-grinder's  machine,  you  make  the  large  wheel 
turn  round,  or  that  by  pressing  the  spring  of  a  repeating 
watch  you  make  the  watch  strike,  and  you  probably 
raise  up  a  feeling  in  the  child's  mind  precisely  similar  to 


ON    WIT    AND    HUMOR.  121 

that  of  wit.  There  is  a  mode  of  teaching  children 
geography  by  disjointed  parts  of  a  wooden  map,  which 
they  fit  together.  I  have  no  doubt  that  the  child,  in 
finding  the  kingdom  or  republic  which  fits  into  a  great 
hole  in  the  wooden  sea,  feels  exactly  the  sensation  of  wit. 
Every  one  must  remember  that  fitting  the  inviting  pro- 
jection of  Crim  Tartary  into  the  Black  Sea  was  one  of 
the  greatest  delights  of  their  childhood  ;  and  almost  all 
children  are  sure  to  scream  with  pleasure  at  the  dis- 
covery. 

The  relation  between  ideas  which  excite  surprise,  in 
order  to  be  witty,  must  not  excite  any  feeling  of  the 
beautiful.  "  The  good  man,'*'  says  a  Hindoo  epigram, 
"  goes  not  upon  enmity,  but  rewards  with  kindness  the 
very  being  who  injures  him.  So  the  sandal- wood,  while 
it  is  felling,  imparts  to  the  edge  of  the  axe  its  aromatic 
flavor."  Now  here  is  a  relation  which  would  be  witty 
if  it  were  not  beautiful :  the  relation  discovered  betwixt 
the  falling  sandal- wood, -and  the  returning  good  for  evil, 
is  a  new  relation  which  excites  surprise  ,  but  the  mere 
surprise  at  the  relation,  is  swallowed  up  by  the  con- 
templation of  the  moral  beauty  of  the  thought,  which 
throws  the  mind  into  a  more  solemn  and  elevated  mood 
than  is  compatible  with  the  feeling  of  wit. 

It  would  not  be  a  difficult  thing  to  do  (and  if  the  limits 
of  my  lecture  allowed  I  would  do  it)  to  select  from 
Cowley  and  Waller  a  suite  of  passages,  in  order  to  show 
the  effect  of  the  beautiful  in  destroying  the  feeling  of  wit, 
and  vice  versa.  First,  I  would  take  a  passage  purely 
witty,  in  which  the  mind  merely  contemplated  the 
singular  and  surprising  relation  of  the  ideas ;  next,  a 
passage  where  the  admixture  of  some  beautiful  senti- 
ment,— the  excitation  of  some  slight  moral  feeling, — . 
arrested  the  mind  from  the  contemplation  of  the  relation 
between  the  ideas  ;  then,  a  passage  in  which  the  beauti- 
ful overpowered  still  more  the  facetious,  till,  at  last,  it 
was  totally  destroyed. 

If  the  relation  between  the  ideas,  to  produce  wit,  must 
not  be  mingled  with  the  beautiful,  still  less  must  they  be 
so  with  the  sublime.  In  that  beautiful  passage  in  Mr. 
Campbell's  poem  of  ('  Lochiel,"  the  wizard  repeats  these 

F 


122  LECTURE    X. 

verses, — which  were  in  every  one's  mouth  when  first 
the  poem  was  written  : — 

"  Lochiel !  Lochiel !  though  my  eyes  I  should  seal, 
Man  can  not  keep  secret  what  God  would  reveal. 
Tis  the  sunset  of  life  gives  me  mystical  lore, 
And  the  coming  events  cast  their  shadows  before."1 

Now  this  comparison  of  the  dark  uncertain  sort  of  pre- 
science of  future  events  implied  by  the  gift  of  second 
sight,  and  the  notice  of  an  approaching  solid  body  by  the 
previous  approach  of  its  shadow,  contains  a  new  and 
striking  relation  ;  but  it  is  not  witty,  nor  would  it  ever 
have  been  considered  as  witty,  if  expressed  in  a  more 
concise  manner,  and  with  the  rapidity  of  conversation, 
because  it  inspires  feelings  of  a  much  higher  cast  than 
those  of  wit,  and,  instead  of  suffering  the  mind  to  dwell 
upon  the  mere  relation  of  ideas,  fills  it  with  a  sort  of 
mysterious  awe,  and  gives  an  air  of  sublimity  to  the 
fabulous  power  of  prediction.  Every  one  knows  the 
Latin  line  on  the  miracle  at  the  marriage-supper  in  Cana 
of  Galilee, — on  the  conversion  of  water  into  wine. 
The  poet  says, 

"  The  modest  water  saw  its  God,  and  blusKdF 

Now,  in  my  mind,  that  sublimity  wThich  some  persons 
discover  in  this  passage  is  destroyed  by  its  wit;  it 
appears  to  me  witty,  and  not  sublime.  I  have  no  great 
feelings  excited  by  it,  and  can  perfectly  well  stop  to 
consider  the  mere  relation  of  ideas.  I  hope  I  need  not 
add,  that  the  line,  if  it  produce  the  effect  of  a  witty  con- 
ceit, and  not  of  a  sublime  image,  is  perfectly  misplaced 
and  irreverent :  the  intent,  however,  of  the  poet,  was  un- 
doubtedly to  be  serious.  In  the  same  manner,  whenever 
the  mind  is  not  left  to  the  mere  surprise  excited  by  the 
relation  of  ideas,  but  when  that  relation  excites  any 
powerful  emotion — as  those  of  the  sublime  and  beautiful, 
or  any  high  passion — as  anger  or  pity,  or  any  train  of 
reflections  upon  the  utility  of  the  relations,  the  feeling 
of  wit  is  always  diminished  or  destroyed.  It  seems  to 
be  occasioned  bv  those  relations  of  ideas  which  excite 


ON    WIT    AND    HUMOR.  123 

surprise,  and  surprise  alone.  Whenever  relations  excite 
any  other  strong  feeling  as  well  as  surprise,  the  wit  is 
either  destroyed,  diminished,  or  the  two  co-existent  feel- 
ings of  wit  and  the  other  emotion  may,  by  careful  reflec- 
tion, be  distinguished  from  each  other.  I  may  be  very 
wrong  (for  these  subjects  are  extremely  difficult),  but  I 
know  no  single  passage  in  any  author  which  is  at  once 
beautiful  and  witty,  or  sublime  and  witty.  I  know 
innumerable  passages  which  are  intended  to  be  beautiful 
or  sublime,  and  which  are  merely  witty ;  and  I  know 
many  passages  in  which  the  relation  of  ideas  is  very  new 
and  surprising,  and  which  are  not  witty  because  they  are 
beautiful  and  sublime.  Lastly,  when  the  effect  of  wit 
is  heightened  by  strong  sense  and  useful  truth,  we  may 
perceive  in  the  mind  what  part  of  the  pleasure  arises 
from  the  mere  relation  of  ideas,  what  from  the  utility  of 
the  precept ;  and  many  instances  might  be  produced, 
where  the  importance  and  utility  of  the  thing  said, 
prevents  the  mind  from  contemplating  the  mere  relation, 
and  considering  it  as  wit.  For  example  :  in  that  apoph- 
thegm of  Rochefoucault,  that  hypocrisy  is  a  homage 
which  vice  renders  to  virtue,  the  image  is  witty,  but  all 
attention  to  the  mere  wit  is  swallowed  up  in  the  justness 
and  value  of  the  observation.  So  that  I  think  I  have 
some  color  for  saying,  that  wit  is  produced  by  those 
relations  between  ideas  which  excite  surprise,  and  sur- 
prise only.  Observe,  1  am  only  defining  the  causes  of  a 
certain  feeling  in  the  mind  called  wit ; — I  can  no  more 
define  the  feeling  itself,  than  I  can  define  the  flavor  of 
venison.  We  all  seem  to  partake  of  one  and  the  other, 
with  a  very  great  degree  of  satisfaction ;  but  why  each 
feeling  is  what  it  is,  and  nothing  else,  I  am  sure  I  can 
not  pretend  to  determine. 

Louis  XIV.  was  exceedingly  molested  by  the  solicita- 
tions of  a  general  officer  at  the  levee,  and  cried  out,  loud 
enough  to  be  overheard,  "  That  gentleman  is  the  most 
troublesome  officer  in  the  whole  army."  "  Your  Majes- 
ty's enemies  have  said  the  same  thing  more  than  once," 
was  the  answer.  The  wit  of  this  answer  consists  in  the 
sudden  relation  discovered  in  his  assent  to  the  King's  in- 
vective and  his  own  defense.     By  admitting  the  King's 


124  LECTURE    X. 

observation,  he  seems,  at  first  sight,  to  be  subscribing  to 
the  imputation  against  him ;  whereas,  in  reality,  he 
effaces  it  by  this  very  means.  A  sudden  relation  is  dis- 
covered where  none  was  suspected.  Voltaire,  in  speak- 
ing of  the  effect  of  epithets  in  weakening  style,  said,  that 
the  adjectives  were  the  greatest  enemies  of  the  substan- 
tives, though  they  agreed  in  gender,  number,  and  in 
cases.  Here,  again,  it  is  very  obvious  that  a  relation  is 
discovered  which,  upon  first  observation,  does  not  appear 
to  exist.  These  instances  may  be  multiplied  to  any  ex- 
tent. A  gentleman  at  Paris,  who  lived  very  unhappily 
with  his  wife,  used,  for  twenty  years  together,  to  pass 
his  evenings  at  the  house  of  another  lady,  who  was  very 
agreeable,  and  drew  together  a  pleasant  society.  His 
wife  died ;  and  his  friends  all  advised  him  to  marry  the 
lady  in  whose  society  he  had  found  so  much  pleasure. 
He  said,  no,  he  certainly  should  not,  for  that  if  he  mar- 
ried her,  he  should  not  know  where  to  spend  his  evenings. 
Here  we  are  suddenly  surprised  with  the  idea  that  the 
method  proposed  of  securing  his  comfort  may  possibly 
prove  the  most  effectual  method  of  destroying  it.  At 
least,  to  enjoy  the  pleasantry  of  the  reply,  we  view  it 
through  his  mode  of  thinking,  who  had  not  been  very 
fortunate  in  the  connection  established  by  his  first  mar- 
riage. I  have,  in  consequence  of  the  definition  I  have 
printed  of  wit  in  the  cards  of  the  Institution,  passed  one  of 
the  most  polemical  weeks  that  ever  I  remember  to  have 
spent  in  my  life.  I  think,  however,  that  if  my  words 
are  understood  in  their  fair  sense,  I  am  not  wrong.  I 
have  said,  surprising  relation  between  ideas, — not  between 
facts.  The  difference  is  very  great.  A  man  may  tell 
me  he  sees  a  fiery  meteor  on  the  surface  of  the  sea:  he  has 
no  merit  in  the  discovery, — it  is  no  extraordinary  act  of 
mind  in  him, — any  one  who  has  eyes  can  ascertain  this 
relation  of  facts  as  well,  if  it  really  exist ;  but  to  discover 
a  surprising  relation  in  ideas,  is  an  act  of  power  in  the 
discoverer,  in  which,  if  his  wit  be  good,  he  exceeds  the 
greater  part  of  mankind  :  so  that  the  very  terms  I  have 
adopted,  imply  comparison  and  superiority  of  mind.  The 
discovery  of  any  relation  of  ideas  exciting  pure  surprise 
involves   the  notion  of  such  superiority,  and  enhances 


ON    WIT    AND    HUMOR.  125 

the  surprise.  To  discover  relations  between  facts  ex- 
citing pure  surprise,  involves  the  notion  of  no  such 
superiority  ;  for  any  man  could  ascertain  that  a  calf  had 
two  heads  if  it  had  two  heads  :  therefore,  I  again  repeat, 
let  any  man  show  me  that  which  is  an  acknowledged 
proof  of  wit,  and  I  believe  I  could  analyze  the  pleasure 
experienced  from  it  into  surprise,  partly  occasioned  by 
the  unexpected  relation  established,  partly  by  the  dis- 
play of  talent  in  discovering  it ;  and,  putting  this  posi- 
tion synthetically,  I  would  say,  whenever  there  is  a 
superior  act  of  intelligence  in  discovering  a  relation 
between  ideas,  which  relation  excites  surprise  and  no 
other  high  emotion,  the  mind  will  have  the  feeling  of 
wit.  Why  is  it  not  witty  to  find  a  gold  watch  and 
seals  hanging  upon  a  hedge  ?  Because  it  is  a  mere  re- 
lation of  facts  discovered  without  any  effort  of  mind, 
and  not  (as  I  have  said  in  my  definition)  a  relation 
of  ideas.  Why  is  it  not  witty  to  discover  the  relation 
between  the  moon  and  the  tides  ?  Because  it  raises 
other  notions  than  those  of  mere  surprise.  Why  are 
not  all  the  extravagant  relations  in  Garagantua  witty  ? 
Because  they  are  merely  odd  and  extravagant  ;  and 
mere  oddity  and  extravagance  is  too  easy  to  excite  sur- 
prise. Why  is  it  witty,  in  one  of  Addison's  plays, 
where  the  undertaker  reproves  one  of  his  mourners  for 
laughing  at  a  funeral,  and  says  to  him,  "  You  rascal, 
you !  I  have  been  raising  your  wages  for  these  two  years 
past  upon  condition  that  you  should  appear  more  sorrow- 
ful, and  the  higher  wages  you  receive  the  happier  you 
look  !"  Here  is  a  relation  between  ideas  the  discovery 
of  which  implies  superior  intelligence,  and  excites  no 
other  emotion  than  surprise. 

It  is  imagined  that  wit  is  a  sort  of  inexplicable  visita- 
tion, that  it  comes  and  goes  with  the  rapidity  of  light- 
ning, and  that  it  is  quite  as  unattainable  as  beauty  or 
just  proportion.  I  am  so  much  of  a  contrary  way  of 
thinking,  that  I  am  convinced  a  man  might  sit  down  as 
systematically,  and  as  successfully,  to  the  study  of  wit, 
as  he  might  to  the  study  of  mathematics  :  and  I  would 
answer  for  it,  that,  by  giving  up  only  six  hours  a  day  to 
being  witty,  he  should  come  on  prodigiously  before  mid- 


126  LECTURE    X. 

summer,  so  that  his  friends  should  hardly  know  him 
again.  For  what  is  there  to  hinder  the  mind  from  grad- 
ually acquiring  a  habit  of  attending  to  the  lighter  rela- 
tions of  ideas  in  which  wit  consists  ?  Punning  grows 
upon  every  body,  and  punning  is  the  wit  of  words.  I  do 
not  mean  to  say  that  it  is  so  easy  to  acquire  a  habit  of 
discovering  new  relations  in  ideas  as  in  words,  but  the 
difficulty  is  not  so  much  greater  as  to  render  it  insuper- 
able to  habit.  One  man  is  unquestionably  much  better 
calculated  for  it  by  nature  than  another  :  but  association, 
which  gradually  makes  a  bad  speaker  a  good  one,  might 
give  a  man  wit  who  had  it  not,  if  any  man  chose  to  be 
so  absurd  as  to  sit  down  to  acquire  it. 

I  have  mentioned  puns.  They  are,  I  believe,  what  I 
have  denominated  them — the  wit  of  words.  They  are 
exactly  the  same  to  words  which  wit  is  to  ideas,  and 
consist  in  the  sudden  discovery  of  relations  in  language. 
A  pun,  to  be  perfect  in  its  kind,  should  contain  two  dis- 
tinct meanings ;  the  one  common  and  obvious ;  the 
other,  more  remote :  and  in  the  notice  which  the  mind 
takes  of  the  relation  between  these  two  sets  of  words, 
and  in  the  surprise  which  that  relation  excites,  the  pleas- 
ure of  a  pun  consists.  Miss  Hamilton,  in  her  book  on 
Education,  mentions  the  instance  of  a  boy  so  very  neg- 
lectful, that  he  could  never  be  brought  to  read  the  word 
patriarchs ;  but  whenever  he  met  with  it  he  always 
pronounced  it  par-tridges.  A  friend  of  the  writer  ob- 
served to  her,  that  it  could  hardly  be  considered  as  a 
mere  piece  of  negligence,  for  it  appeared  to  him  that  the 
boy,  in  calling  them  partridges,  was  making  game  of  the 
patriarchs.  Now  here  are  two  distinct  meanings  con- 
tained in  the  same  phrase :  for  to  make  game  of  the 
patriarchs  is  to  laugh  at  them ;  or  to  make  game  of 
them  is,  by  a  very  extravagant  and  laughable  sort  of 
ignorance  of  words,  to  rank  them  among  pheasants, 
partridges,  and  other  such  delicacies,  which  the  law 
takes  under  its  protection  and  calls  game :  and  the 
whole  pleasure  derived  from  this  pun  consists  in  the 
sudden  discovery  that  two  such  different  meanings  are 
referable  to  one  form  of  expression.  I  have  very  little  to 
say  about  puns  ;  they  are  in  very  bad  repute,  and   so 


ON     WIT    AND    HUMOR.  127 

they  ought  to  be.  The  wit  of  language  is  so  miserably 
inferior  to  the  wit  of  ideas,  that  it  is  very  deservedly 
driven  out  of  good  company.  Sometimes,  indeed,  a  pun 
makes  its  appearance  which  seems  for  a  moment  to 
redeem  its  species  ;  but  we  must  not  be  deceived  by 
them  :  it  is  a  radically  bad  race  of  wit.  By  unremitting 
persecution,  it  has  been  at  last  got  under,  and  driven 
into  cloisters, — from  whence  it  must  never  again  be 
suffered  to  emerge  into  the  light  of  the  world.  One  in- 
valuable blessing  produced  by  the  banishment  of  pun- 
ning is,  an  immediate  reduction  of  the  number  of  wits. 
It  is  a  wit  of  so  low  an  order,  and  in  which  some  sort 
of  progress  is  so  easily  made,  that  the  number  of  those 
endowed  with  the  gift  of  wit  would  be  nearly  equal  to 
those  endowed  with  the  gift  of  speech.  The  condition 
of  putting  together  ideas  in  order  to  be  witty  operates 
much  in  the  same  salutary  manner  as  the  condition  of 
finding  rhymes  in  poetry ; — it  reduces  the  number  of 
performers  to  those  who  have  vigor  enough  to  over- 
come incipient  difficulties,  and  makes  a  sort  of  provision 
that  that  which  need  not  be  done  at  all,  should  be  done 
well  whenever  it  is  done.  For  we  may  observe,  that 
mankind  are  always  more  fastidious  about  that  which  is 
pleasing,  than  they  are  about  that  which  is  useful.  A 
commonplace  piece  of  morality  is  much  more  easily 
pardoned  than  a  commonplace  piece  of  poetry  or  of  wit ; 
because  it  is  absolutely  necessary  for  the  well-being  of 
society  that  the  rules  of  morality  should  be  frequently  re- 
peated and  enforced  ;  and  though  in  any  individual 
instance  the  thing  may  be  badly  done,  the  sacred  neces- 
sity of  the  practice  itself,  atones  in  some  degree  for  the 
individual  failure :  but  as  there  is  no  absolute  necessity 
that  men  should  be  either  wits  or  poets,  we  are  less  in- 
clined to  tolerate  their  mediocrity  in  superfluities.  If 
a  man  have  ordinary  chairs  and  tables,  no  one  notices 
it ;  but  if  he  stick  vulgar,  gaudy  pictures  on  his  walls, 
which  he  need  not  have  at  all,  every  one  laughs  at  him 
for  his  folly. 

The  wit  of  irony  consists  in  the  surprise  excited  by 
the  discovery  of  that  relation  wich  exists  between  the 
apparent  praise  and  the  real  blame;  or,  if  it  be  good- 


128  LECTURE    X. 

natured  irony,  between  the  apparent  blame  and  the  real 
praise.  I  shall  quote  a  noble  specimen  of  irony  from  the 
preface  of  "  Killing  no  Murder  :" — 

"TO    HIS    HIGHNESS    OLIVER    CROMWELL, 

"  May  it  please  your  Highness, 

"  How  I  have  spent  some  hours  of  the  leisure  your 
Highness  has  been  pleased  to  give  me,  this  following 
paper  will  give  your  Highness  an  account.  How  you 
will  please  to  interpret  it,  1  can  not  tell ;  but  I  can  with 
confidence  say,  my  intention  in  it  is,  to  procure  your 
Highness  that  justice  nobody  yet  does  you,  and  to  let  the 
people  see,  the  longer  they  defer  it,  the  greater  injury 
they  do  both  themselves  and  you.  To  your  Highness 
justly  belongs  the  honor  of  dying  for  the  people  :  and  it 
can  not  choose  but  be  an  unspeakable  consolation  to  you 
in  the  last  moments  of  your  life,  to  consider,  with  how 
much  benefit  to  the  world  you  are  like  to  leave  it.  It  is 
then  only,  my  Lord,  the  titles  you  now  usurp  will  be 
truly  yours.  You  will  then  be  indeed  the  deliverer  of 
your  country,  and  free  it  from  a  bondage  little  inferior  to 
that  from  which  Moses  delivered  his.  You  will  then  be 
that  true  reformer  which  you  would  now  be  thought ;  re- 
ligion shall  be  then  restored,  liberty  asserted,  and  parlia- 
ments have  those  privileges  they  have  sought  for.  We 
shall  then  hope  that  other  laws  will  have  place  beside 
those  of  the  sword,  and  that  justice  shall  be  otherwise  de- 
fined than  the  will  and  pleasure  of  the  strongest ;  and  we 
shall  then  hope  men  will  keep  oaths  again,  and  not  have 
the  necessity  of  being  false  and  perfidious  to  preserve 
themselves,  and  be  like  their  ruler.  All  this  we  hope 
from  your  Highness's  happy  expiration,  who  are  the  true 
father  of  your  country ;  for  while  you  live,  we  can  call 
nothing  ours,  and  it  is  from  your  death  that  we  hope  for 
our  inheritances.  Let  this  consideration  arm  and  fortify 
your  Highness's  mind  against  the  fears  of  death,  and  the 
terrors  of  your  evil  conscience, — that  the  good  you  will 
do  by  your  death,  will  somewhat  balance  the  evils  of 
your  life.  And  if,  in  the  black  catalogue  of  high  male- 
factors, few  can  be  found  that  have  lived  more  to  the 


ON    WIT    AND    HUMOR.  129 

affliction  and  disturbance  of  mankind,  than  your  High- 
ness has  done ;  yet  your  greatest  enemies  will  not  deny, 
that  there  are  likewise  as  few  that  have  expired  more  to 
the  universal  benefit  of  mankind,  than  your  Highness  is 
like  to  do.  To  hasten  this  great  good,  is  the  chief  end 
of  my  writing  this  paper  ;  and  if  it  have  the  effects  I  hope 
it  will,  your  Highness  will  quickly  be  out  of  the  reach  of 
men's  malice,  and  your  enemies  will  only  be  able  to 
wound  you  in  your  memory,  which  strokes  you  will  not 
feel.  That  your  Highness  may  be  speedily  in  this  secu- 
rity, is  the  universal  wish  of  your  grateful  country  ;  this 
is  the  desire  and  prayers  of  the  good  and  of  the  bad,  and, 
it  may  be,  is  the  only  thing  wherein  all  sects  and  factions 
do  agree  in  their  devotion,  and  it  is  our  only  common 
prayer!  But  among  all  that  put  in  their  request  and 
supplication  for  your  Highness's  speedy  deliverance  from 
all  earthly  troubles,  none  is  more  assiduous  nor  more  fer- 
vent than  he,  that,  with  the  rest  of  the  nation,  hath  the 
honor  to  be  (may  it  please  your  Highness), 

"  Your  Highness's  present  slave  and  vassal." 

Now,  through  the  whole  of  this  passage,  there  is  an  ap- 
parent praise  of  the  person  to  whom  it  is  addressed,  and 
a  real  censure  of  that  person.  The  surprise  excited  by 
this  union  of  visible  eulogium  and  real  satire  constitutes 
the  pleasure  we  receive  from  the  passage. 

A  sarcasm  (which  is  another  species  of  wit)  generally 
consists  in  the  obliquity  of  the  invective.  It  must  not 
be  direct  assertion,  but  something  established  by  infer- 
ence and  analogy  ; — something  which  the  mind  does  not 
at  first  perceive,  but  in  the  discovery  of  which  it  experi- 
ences the  pleasure  of  surprise.  A  true  sarcasm  is  like  a 
sword-stick, — it  appears,  at  first  sight,  to  be  much  more 
innocent  than  it  really  is,  till,  all  of  a  sudden,  there  leaps 
something  out  of  it — sharp,  and  deadly,  and  incisive — 
which  makes  you  tremble  and  recoil. 

I  have  insisted,  in  the  beginning  of  my  lecture,  on  the 
great  power  of  the  ridiculous  over  the  opinions  of  man- 
kind ;  including  in  that  term  wit,  humor,  and  every  other 
feeling  which  has  laughter  for  its  distinguishing  charac- 
teristic. 


130  LECTURE    X. 

I  know  of  no  principle  which  it  is  of  more  importance 
to  fix  in  the  minds  of  young  people  than  that  of  the  most 
determined  resistance  to  the  encroachments  of  ridicule. 
Give  up  to  the  world,  and  to  the  ridicule  with  which  the 
world  enforces  its  dominion,  every  trifling  question  of 
manner  and  appearance  :  it  is  to  toss  courage  and  firm- 
ness to  the  winds,  to  combat  with  the  mass  upon  such 
subjects  as  these.  But  learn  from  the  earliest  days  to 
inure  your  principles  against  the  perils  of  ridicule  :  you 
can  no  more  exercise  your  reason,  if  you  live  in  the  con- 
stant dread  of  laughter,  than  you  can  enjoy  your  life,  if 
you  are  in  the  constant  terror  of  death.  If  you  think  it 
right  to  differ  from  the  times,  and  to  make  a  stand  for 
any  valuable  point  of  morals,  do  it,  however  rustic,  how- 
ever antiquated,  however  pedantic  it  may  appear ; — do 
it,  not  for  insolence,  but  seriously  and  grandly, — as  a 
man  who  wore  a  soul  of  his  own  in  his  bosom,  and  did 
not  wait  till  it  was  breathed  into  him  by  the  breath  of 
fashion.  Let  men  call  you  mean,  if  you  know  you  are 
just ;  hypocritical,  if  you  are  honestly  religious  ;  pusillan- 
imous, if  you  feel  that  you  are  firm  :  resistance  soon  con- 
verts unprincipled  wit  into  sincere  respect ;  and  no  after 
time  can  tear  from  those  feelings  which  every  man  car- 
ries within  him  who  has  made  a  noble  and  successful  ex- 
ertion in  a  virtuous  cause. 


LECTURE    XL 

ON   WIT   AND   HUMOR.— PART   II. 

Hobbes  defines  laughter  to  be  "  a  sudden  glory,  arising 
from  a  sudden  conception  of  some  eminency  in  ourselves, 
by  comparison  with  infirmity  of  others,  or  our  own 
former  infirmity."  By  infirmity  he  must  mean,  I  pre- 
sume, marked  and  decided  inferiority,  whether  acciden- 
tal and  momentary,  or  natural  and  permanent.  He 
can  not,  of  course,  mean  by  it,  what  we  usually  denomi- 
nate infirmity  of  body  or  mind ;  for  it  must  be  obvious, 
at  the  first  moment,  that  humor  has  a  much  wider  range 
than  this.  If  we  were  to  see  a  little  man  walking  in  the 
streets  with  a  hat  half  as  big  as  an  umbrella,  we  should 
laugh ;  and  that  laughter  certainly  could  not  be  ascribed 
to  the  infirmities  either  of  his  body  or  mind :  for  his 
diminutive  figure,  without  his  disproportionate  hat,  I 
shall  suppose  by  hypothesis,  to  be  such  as  would  excite 
no  laughter  at  all ; — and,  indeed,  an  extraordinary  large 
man,  with  a  hat  such  as  is  worn  by  boys  of  twelve  years 
old,  would  be  an  object  quite  as  ludicrous. 

Taking,  therefore,  the  language  of  Hobbes  to  mean 
the  sudden  discovery  of  any  inferiority,  it  will  be  very 
easy  to  show  that  such  is  not  the  explanation  of  that 
laughter  excited  by  humor :  for  I  may  discover  suddenly 
that  a  person  has  lost  half-a-crown, — or,  that  his  tooth 
aches, — or,  that  his  house  is  not  so  well  built,  or  his  coat 
not  so  well  made,  as  mine ;  and  yet  none  of  these 
discoveries  give  me  the  slightest  sensation  of  the  humor- 
ous. If  it  be  suggested  that  these  proofs  of  inferiority 
are  very  slight,  the  theory  of  Hobbes  is  still  more 
weakened,  by  recurring  to  greater  instances  of  inferiori- 
ty :    for  the  sudden   information   that   any   one  of  my 


132  LECTURE    XI. 

acquaintance  has  broken  his  leg,  or  is  completely  ruined 
in  his  fortunes,  has  decidedly  very  little  of  humor  in 
it ; — at  least  it  is  not  very  customary  to  be  thrown  into 
paroxysms  of  laughter  by  such  sort  of  intelligence.  It 
is  clear,  then,  that  there  are  many  instances  of  the 
sudden  discovery  of  inferiorities  and  infirmities  in  others, 
which  excite  no  laughter;  and,  therefore,  pride  is  not  the 
explanation  of  laughter  excited  by  the  humorous.  It  is 
true,  the  object  of  laughter  is  always  inferior  to  us ;  but 
then  the  converse  is  not  true, — that  every  one  who  is 
inferior  to  us  is  an  object  of  laughter  :  therefore,  as  some 
inferiority  is  ridiculous,  and  other  inferiority  not  ridicu- 
lous, we  must,  in  order  to  explain  the  nature  of  the 
humorous,  endeavor  to  discover  the  discriminating  cause. 
This  discriminating  cause  is  incongruity,  or  the  con- 
junction of  objects  and  circumstances  not  usually  com- 
bined,— and  the  conjunction  of  which  is  either  useless, 
or  w7hat  in  the  common  estimation  of  men  would  be 
considered  as  rather  troublesome,  and  not  to  be  desired. 
To  see  a  young  officer  of  eighteen  years  of  age  come 
into  company  in  full  uniform,  and  with  such  a  wig  as  is 
worn  by  grave  and  respectable  clergymen  advanced  in 
years,  would  make  every  body  laugh,  because  it  certainly 
is  a  very  unusual  combination  of  objects,  and  such  as 
would  not  atone  for  its  novelty  by  any  particular  purpose 
of  utility  to  which  it  was  subservient.  It  is  a  complete 
instance  of  incongruity.  Add  ten  years  to  the  age  of 
this  incongruous  officer,  the  incongruity  would  be  very 
faintly  diminished; — make  him  eighty  years  of  age,  and 
a  celebrated  military  character  of  the  last  reign,  and  the 
incongruity  almost  entirely  vanishes  :  I  am  not  sure  that 
we  should  not  be  rather  more  disposed  to  respect  the 
peculiarity  than  to  laugh  at  it.  As  you  increase  the 
incongruity,  you  increase  the  humor ;  as  you  diminish  it, 
you  diminish  the  humor.  If  a  tradesman  of  a  corpulent 
and  respectable  appearance,  with  habiliments  somewhat 
ostentatious,  were  to  slide  down  gently  into  the  mud,  and 
dedecorate  a  pea-green  coat,  I  am  afraid  we  should  all 
have  the  barbarity  to  laugh.  If  his  hat  and  wig,  like 
treacherous  servants,  were  to  desert  their  falling  master, 
it  certainly  would  not  diminish  our  propensity  to  laugh  ; 


ON    WIT    AND    HUMOR.  133 

but  if  he  were  to  fall  into  a  violent  passion,  and  abuse 
every  body  about  him,  nobody  could  possibly  resist  the 
incongruity  of  a  pea-green  tradesman,  very  respectable, 
sitting  in  the  mud,  and  threatening  all  the  passers-by 
with  the  effects  of  his  wrath.  Here,  every  incident 
heightens  the  humor  of  the  scene: — the  gayety  of  his 
tunic,  the  general  respectability  of  his  appearance,  the 
rills  of  muddy  water  which  trickle  down  his  cheeks,  and 
the  harmless  violence  of  his  rage !  But  if,  instead  of 
this,  we  were  to  observe  a  dustman  falling  into  the  mud, 
it  would  hardly  attract  any  attention,  because  the  opposi- 
tion of  ideas  is  so  trifling,  and  the  incongruity  so  slight. 
Surprise  is  as  essential  to  humor  as  it  is  to  wit.  In 
going  into  a  foreign  country  for  the  first  time,  we  are 
exceedingly  struck  with  the  absurd  appearance  of  some 
of  the  ordinary  characters  we  meet  with  :  a  very  short 
time,  however,  completely  reconciles  us  to  the  phenomena 
of  French  abbes  and  French  postilions,  and  all  the 
variety  of  figures  so  remote  from  those  we  are  accus- 
tomed to,  and  which  surprise  us  so  much  at  our  first  ac- 
quaintance with  that  country.  I  do  not  mean  to  say, 
either  of  one  class  of  the  ridiculous  or  of  the  other,  that 
perfect  novelty  is  absolutely  a  necessary  ingredient  to 
the  production  of  any  degree  of  pleasure,  but  that  the 
pleasure  arising  from  humor  diminishes,  as  the  surprise 
diminishes ; — it.  is  less  at  the  second  exhibition  of  any 
piece  of  humor  than  at  the  first,  less  at  the  third  than  the 
second,  till  at  last  it  becomes  trite  and  disgusting.  A 
piece  of  humor  will,  however,  always  bear  repetition 
much  better  than  a  piece  of  wit ;  because,  as  humor 
depends  in  some  degree  on  manner,  there  will  probably 
always  be  in  that  manner,  something  sufficiently  different 
from  what  it  was  before,  to  prevent  the  disagreeable 
effects  of  complete  sameness.  If  I  say  a  good  thing  to- 
day, and  repeat  it  again  to-morrow  in  another  company, 
the  flash  of  to-day  is  as  much  like  the  flash  of  to-morrow 
as  the  flash  of  one  musket  is  like  the  flash  of  another  ; 
but  if  I  tell  a  humorous  story,  there  are  a  thousand  little 
diversities  in  my  voice,  manner,  language,  and  gestures, 
which  make  it  rather  a  different  thing  from  what  it  was 


134  LECTURE    XI. 

before,  and  infuse  a  tinge  of  novelty  into  the  repeated 
narrative. 

It  is  by  no  means,  however,  sufficient,  to  say  of  humor, 
that  it  is  incongruity  which  excites  surprise ; — the  same 
limits  are  necessary  here  which  I  have  before  affixed  to 
wit, — it  must  excite  surprise,  and  nothing  but  surprise  ; 
for  the  moment  it  calls  into  action  any  other  high  and 
impetuous  emotion,  all  sense  of  the  humorous  is  imme- 
diately at  an  end.  For,  to  return  again  to  our  friend 
dressed  in  green,  whom  we  left  in  the  mud, — suppose, 
instead  of  a  common,  innocent  tumble,  he  had  experienced 
a  very  severe  fall,  and  we  discovered  that  he  had  broken 
a  limb ;  our  laughter  is  immediately  extinguished,  and 
converted  into  a  lively  feeling  of  compassion.  The 
incongruity  is  precisely  as  great  as  it  was  before  ;  but 
as  it  has  excited  another  feeling  not  compatible  with  the 
ridiculous,  all  mixture  of  the  humorous  is  at  end. 

The  sense  of  the  humorous  is  as  incompatible  with 
tenderness  and  respect  as  wTith  compassion.  No  man 
would  laugh  to  see  a  little  child  fall ;  and  he  would  be 
shocked  to  see  such  an  accident  happen  to  an  old  man, 
or  a  woman,  or  to  his  father  !  It  is  an  odd  case  to  put, 
but  I  should  like  to  know  if  any  man  living  could  have 
laughed  if  he  had  seen  Sir  Isaac  Newton  rolling  in  the 
mud  ?  I  believe  that  not  only  Senior  Wranglers  and 
Senior  Optimi  would  have  run  to  his  assistance,  but 
that  dustmen,  and  carmen,  and  coal-heavers  would  have 
run  and  picked  him  up,  and  set  him  to  rights.  It  is  a 
beautiful  thing  to  observe  the  boundaries  which  nature 
has  affixed  to  the  ridiculous,  and  to  notice  how  soon  it  is 
swallowed  up  by  the  more  illustrious  feelings  of  our 
minds.  Where  is  the  heart  so  hard  that  could  bear  to 
see  the  awkward  resources  and  contrivances  of  the  poor 
turned  into  ridicule  ?  Who  could  laugh  at  the  fractured, 
ruined  body  of  a  soldier  ?  Who  is  so  wicked  as  to 
amuse  himself  with  the  infirmities  of  extreme  old  age  ? 
or  to  find  subject  for  humor  in  the  weakness  of  a 
perishing,  dissolving  body  ?  Who  is  there  that  does  not 
feel  himself  disposed  to  overlook  the  little  peculiarities 
of  the  truly  great  and  wise,  and  to  throw  a  veil  over  that 
ridicule  which  they  have  redeemed  by  the  magnitude 


ON    WIT    AND    HUMOR.  135 

of  their  talents,  and  the  splendor  of  their  virtues  ?  Who 
ever  thinks  of  turning  into  ridicule  our  great  and  ardent 
hope  of  a  world  to  come?  Whenever  the  man  of  humor 
meddles  with  these  things,  he  is  astonished  to  find,  that 
in  all  the  great  feelings  of  their  nature  the  mass  of 
mankind  always  think  and  act  aright; — that  they  are 
ready  enough  to  laugh, — but  that  they  are  quite  as  ready 
to  drive  away  with  indignation  and  contempt,  the  light 
fool  who  comes  with  the  feather  of  wit  to  crumble  the 
bulwarks  of  truth,  and  to  beat  down  the  Temples  of  God ! 

So,  then,  this  turns  out  to  be  the  nature  of  humor : 
that  it  is  incongruity  which  creates  surprise,  and  only 
surprise.  Try  the  most  notorious  and  classical  instances 
of  humor  by  this  rule,  and  you  will  find  it  succeed.  If 
you  find  incongruities  which  create  surprise  and  are  not 
humorous,  it  is  always,  I  believe,  because  they  are  ac- 
companied with  some  other  feeling, — emotion,  or  an 
interesting  train  of  thought,  beside  surprise.  Find  an 
incongruity  which  creates  surprise,  and  surprise  only, 
and,  if  it  be  not  humorous,  I  am,  what  I  very  often  am, 
completely  wrong  ;  and  this  theory  is,  what  theories 
very  often  are,  unfounded  in  fact. 

Most  men,  I  observe,  are  of  opinion  that  humor  is 
entirely  confined  to  character ; — and  if  you  choose  to 
confine  the  word  humor  to  those  instances  of  the  ridicu- 
lous which  are  excited  by  character,  you  may  do  so  if 
you  please, — this  is  not  worth  contending.  All  that  I 
wish  to  show  is,  that  this  species  of  feeling  is  produced 
by  something  beside  character ;  and  if  you  allow  it  to 
be  the  same  feeling,  I  am  satisfied,  and  you  may  call  it 
by  what  name  you  please.  One  of  the  most  laughable 
scenes  I  ever  saw  in  my  life  was,  the  complete  overturn- 
ing of  a  very  large  table,  with  all  the  dinner  upon  it, — 
which  I  believe  one  or  two  gentlemen  in  this  room  re- 
member as  well  as  myself.  What  of  character  is  there 
in  seeing  a  roasted  turkey  sprawling  on  the  floor  ?  or 
ducks  lying  in  different  parts  of  the  room,  covered  with 
trembling  fragments  of  jelly  ?  It  is  impossible  to  avoid 
laughing  at  such  absurdities,  because  the  incongruities 
they  involve  are  so  very  great ;  though  they  have  no 
more  to  do  with  character  than  they  have  with  chemistry. 


136  LECTURE    XI. 

A  thousand  little  circumstances  happen  every  day  which 
excite  violent  laughter,  but  have  no  sort  of  reference  to 
character.  The  laughter  is  excited  by  throwing  inani- 
mate objects  into  strange  and  incongruous  positions. 
Now,  I  am  quite  unable,  by  attending  to  what  passes  in 
my  own  mind,  to  say,  that  these  classes  of  sensations 
are  not  alike :  they  may  differ  in  degree,  for  the  incon- 
gruous observed  of  things  living,  is  always  more  striking 
than  the  incongruous  observed  in  things  inanimate  ;  but 
there  is  an  incongruous  not  observable  in  character, 
which  produces  the  feeling  of  humor. 

Having  thus  endeavored  to  ascertain  the  nature  of 
humor,  I  come  next  to  the  various  classes  and  divisions 
of  the  ridiculous  which  have  no  affinity  with  humor. 

Buffoonery  is  voluntary  incongruity.  To  play  the 
buffoon,  is  to  counterfeit  some  peculiarity  incongruous 
enough  to  excite  laughter :  not  incongruities  of  mind, 
for  this  is  a  humor  of  a  higher  class,  and  constitutes 
comic  acting ;  but  incongruities  of  body, — imitating  a 
drunken  man,  or  a  clown,  or  a  person  with  a  hunched 
back,  or  puffing  out  the  cheeks  as  the  lower  sort  of 
comic  actors  do  upon  the  stage.  Buffoonery  is  general 
in  its  imitations ;  mimicry  is  particular,  and  seizes  on 
the  incongruous  in  individual  characters.  I  think  we 
must  say,  that  mimicry  is  always  employed  upon  de- 
fects :  a  good  voice,  a  gentleman-like  appearance,  and 
rational,  agreeable  manners,  can  never  be  the  subject  of 
mimicry ; — they  may  be  exactly  represented  and  imi- 
tated, but  nobody  would  call  this  mimicry,  as  the  word 
always  means  the  representation  of  defects.  Parody  is 
the  adaptation  of  the  same  thoughts  to  other  subjects. 
Burlesque  is  that  species  of  parody,  or  adaptation  of 
thoughts  to  other  subjects,  which  is  intended  to  make 
the  original  ridiculous.  Pope  has  parodied  several  Odes 
of  Horace ;  Johnson  has  parodied  Juvenal ;  Cervantes 
has  burlesqued  the  old  romances. 

A  bull, — which  must  by  no  means  be  passed  over  in 
this  recapitulation  of  the  family  of  wit  and  humor, — a 
bull  is  exactly  the  counterpart  of  a  witticism  :  for  as  wit 
discovers  real  relations  that  are  not  apparent,  bulls  admit 
apparent   relations   that   are   not   real.      The   pleasure 


ON    WIT    AND    HUMOR.  137 

arising  from  bulls,  proceeds  from  our  surprise  at  sud- 
denly discovering  two  things  to  be  dissimilar  in  which  a 
resemblance  might  have  been  suspected.  The  same 
doctrine  will  apply  to  wit  and  bulls  in  action.  Practical 
wit  discovers  connection  or  relation  between  actions,  in 
which  duller  understandings  discover  none  ;  and  practi- 
cal bulls  originate  from  an  apparent  relation  between 
two  actions  which  more  correct  understandings  immedi- 
ately perceive  to  have  none  at  all.  In  the  late  rebellion 
in  Ireland,  the  rebels,  who  had  conceived  a  high  degree 
of  indignation  against  some  great  banker,  passed  a  reso- 
lution that  they  would  burn  his  notes ; — which  they 
accordingly  did,  with  great  assiduity  ;  forgetting,  that  in 
burning  his  notes  they  were  destroying  his  debts,  and 
that  for  every  note  which  went  into  the  flames,  a  cor- 
respondent value  went  into  the  banker's  pocket.  A 
gentleman,  in  speaking  of  a  nobleman's  wife,  of  great 
rank  and  fortune,  lamented  very  much  that  she  had  no 
children.  A  medical  gentleman  who  was  present  ob- 
served, that  to  have  no  children  was  a  great  misfortune, 
but  he  thought  he  had  remarked  it  was  hereditary  in 
some  families.  Take  any  instance  of  this  branch  of  the 
ridiculous,  and  you  will  always  find  an  apparent  relation 
of  ideas  leading  to  a  complete  inconsistency. 

I  hardly  know  whether  quaintness  belongs  to  this 
subject,  and  the  word  is  now  used  so  loosely  that  it  is 
no  very  easy  matter  to  determine  at  what  it  points.  I 
think  it  means  an  attention  to  petty  excellences  in  style, 
an  over-scrupulous  and  affected  delicacy  of  expression ; 
and  that  quaint  humor,  is  humor  in  this  peculiar  garb. 

Good  caricature  is  the  humorous  addressed  to  the  eye. 
It  represents  you  as  doing  something  which  it  would  be 
extremely  incongruous  and  absurd  in  you  to  do ;  but  it 
adds  the  effects  of  mimicry  to  those  of  humor,  laying 
hold  of  personal  defects  and  peculiarities,  and  aggravat- 
ing them  in  a  very  high  degree. 

I  shall  say  nothing  of  charades,  and  such  sorts  of  un- 
pardonable trumpery :  if  charades  are  made  at  all,  they 
should  be  made  without  benefit  of  clergy,  the  offender 
should  instantly  be  hurried  off  to  execution,  and  be  cut 
off  in  the  middle  of  his  dullness,  without  being  allowed 


138  LECTUKE    XI. 

to  explain  to  the  executioner  why  his  first  is  like  his 
second,  or  what  is  the  resemblance  between  his  fourth 
and  his  ninth. 

Incongruities,  which  excite  laughter,  generally  pro- 
duce a  feeling  of  contempt  for  the  person  at  whom  we 
laugh.  I  do  not  know  that  I  can  state  an  instance  of 
the  humorous  in  persons,  where  the  person  laughing 
does  not  feel  himself  superior  to  the  person  laughed  at, — 
whether  that  sense  of  the  humorous  be  excited  by  an 
accidental  incongruity  of  situation,  or  by  a  permanent 
incongruity  interwoven  in  the  character.  Remember, 
I  am  not  speaking  of  persons  laughed  with,  but  of  per- 
sons laughed  at:  and  in  all  such  cases  the  laugher  is,  in 
his  own  estimation,  the  superior  man ;  the  person 
laughed  at,  the  inferior :  at  the  same  time,  contempt 
accompanied  by  laughter,  is  always  mitigated  by  laughter, 
which  seems  to  diminish  hatred,  as  perspiration  dimin- 
ishes heat. 

Laughing  contempt  is  by  no  means  the  strongest  con- 
tempt ;  whenever  contempt  increases  to  a  very  high 
degree,  it  becomes  serious,  and  all  laughter  ceases. 
Contempt  verges  upon  anger,  and  the  humorous  is  at  an 
end.  A  very  foolish,  insignificant  man,  may  give  him- 
self airs  of  great  importance  in  society,  and  provoke 
laughter;  but  the  laughter  by  no  means  goes  on  in- 
creasing with  the  incongruity,  for  at  last  a  degree  of 
contempt  ensues,  which  is  rather  painful  than  agreeable ; 
and  so  painful,  as  to  put  an  end  to  laughter,  and  chase 
away  the  humorous. 

The  ridiculous  is  not  so  much  opposed  to  the  proper 
and  the  decent,  as  to  that  which  is  very  proper  and  very 
decent.  There  is  a  propriety  so  unusual,  that  it  obtains 
positive  praise  whenever  it  is  observed ;  there  is  a  fainter 
sense  of  propriety,  just  sufficient  to  guard  a  man  from 
observation,  but  for  which  he  obtains  neither  blame  nor 
praise.  There  is  a  deficiency  of  propriety  so  great,  that 
it  is  universally  ridiculous.  Take  it  in  language  :— my 
mode  of  expressing  myself  may  be  so  happy  and  so  ac- 
curate, I  may  throw  my  ideas  into  such  agreeable  com- 
binations of  words,  that  I  may  derive  a  considerable 
share  of  reputation  from  my  style,  either  in  talking  or  in 


ON    WIT    AND    HUMOR.  139 

writing ;  or  my  language  may  be  just  so  mediocre,  as  to 
escape  all  attention ;  or  so  bad,  and  so  full  of  incongrui- 
ties, that  it  may  be  laughed  at.  Now  the  last  of  these, 
which  is  so  bad  as  to  excite  the  powerful  emotion  of 
laughter,  is  to  be  opposed  and  contrasted,  in  all  specula- 
tions upon  this  subject,  to  that  which  is  so  excellent  as 
to  excite  a  strong  feeling  of  approbation.  I  mention 
this,  in  order  to  show  that  nature  acts  as  much  by  re- 
wards as  by  punishments ;  and  that  men  are  as  much 
allured  to  do  that  which  is  fit  and  decent,  by  the  love  of 
each  other's  approbation,  as  they  are  by  the  fear  of  each 
other's  laughter  and  disapprobation.  Laughter  is,  to 
many  men,  worse  than  death.  Innumerable  duels  have 
been  fought  to  prevent  the  pangs  of  ridicule,  and  to  re- 
venge them ;  and  there  are  very  few  who  would  not 
rather  be  hated  than  be  laughed  at.  The  effects  of  this 
feeling,  entertained  in  a  rational  and  moderate  degree, 
are,  to  render  men  dependent  upon  each  other's  judg- 
ment, and  to  lay  the  basis  of  that  propriety  and  decorum 
upon  which  the  pleasure  and  happiness  of  our  intercourse 
are  founded. 

In  Bedlam  (where  there  is  no  fear  of  the  ridiculous), 
within  ten  yards  one  man  is  singing,  another  reciting, 
and  another  sleeping ;  a  young  man  is  dressed  like  an 
old  one,  and  an  old  one  as  if  he  were  young ;  there  is 
that  universal  selfishness,  which  of  course  must  predom- 
inate where  every  human  being  is  utterly  indifferent  to 
the  censure  or  praise  of  the  other.  In  polished  society, 
the  dread  of  being  ridiculous,  models  every  word  and 
gesture  into  propriety,  and  produces  an  exquisite  atten- 
tion to  the  feelings  and  opinions  of  others ;  it  is  the 
great  cure  of  extravagance,  folly,  and  impertinence ;  it 
curbs  the  sallies  of  eccentricity,  it  recalls  the  attention 
of  mankind  to  the  one  uniform  standard  of  reason  and 
common  sense. 

It  has  often  been  remarked,  that  wit  never  excites 
laughter,  and  that  humor  does.  This  is  putting  the  mat- 
ter in  rather  too  strong  a  light.  The  laughter  is  not  so 
long  and  so  loud  in  wit  as  it  is  in  humor,  but  there  is  cer- 
tainly a  faint  approach  to  the  same  bodily  affection. 
Nature  seems  to  have  intended  that  we  should  have  been 


140  LECTURE    XI. 

affected  by  both,  in  a  similar  manner,  but  not  in  the  same 
degree.  I  do  not  pretend  to  give  any  reason  for  this 
fact ;  except,  perhaps,  it  be  this,  that  humor  is  in  general 
longer  than  wit :  in  a  piece  of  wit  there  is  but  a  single 
flash  of  surprise  and  pleasure  ;  in  a  piece  of  humor,  as  in 
Don  Quixote's  battle  with  the  mills,  one  impression  fol- 
lows quick  upon  another,  the  mind  is  thrown  into  an  atti- 
tude of  pleasing  surprise  by  the  first  occurrence  of  the 
idea,  and  then  all  the  other  touches  of  humor  act  one  on 
another  with  a  compound  force  and  accumulated  impres- 
sion, till  at  last  the  convulsion  of  laughter  ensues  ; — and 
it  is  a  confirmation  of  this  idea,  that  the  tranquil  smile 
with  which  wit  is  received,  is  soon  disturbed  and  roused 
into  something  more  disorderly,  when  there  is  much  re- 
duplication of  wit ;  when  it  comes  out,  as  it  does  in  some 
men,  flash  after  flash,  with  a  brisk  multiplication  of  sur- 
prises, a  continued  irritability, — where  one  nerve  no 
sooner  ceases  to  vibrate  than  another  is  struck,  and  the 
mind  is  kept  in  a  constant  agitation  of  pleasure.  In 
cases  like  this,  I  have  very  often  seen  wit  produce  loud 
and  convulsive  laughter ;  and  am  inclined  to  believe,  that 
the  different  effects  of  humor  and  wit,  in  this  respect,  are 
a  good  deal  to  be  attributed  to  the  continuity  of  one,  and 
the  brevity  of  the  other;  to  which,  perhaps,  may  be 
added,  that  wit  excites  more  admiration  than  humor, — a 
feeling  by  no  means  favorable  to  laughter. 

Wit  and  humor,  though  the  first  consists  in  discover- 
ing connection,  the  latter  in  discovering  incongruity,  are 
closely  and  nearly  related  to  each  other.  The  respect- 
ive feelings  both  depend  upon  surprise,  are  both  incom- 
patible with  serious  and  important  ideas,  and  both  com- 
municate the  same  sort  of  pleasure  to  the  understanding. 
A  man  who  gives  the  reins  to  his  wit,  may  repress  his 
humor  as  undignified  ;  the  one  may  be  rooted  out  by 
design  and  attention ;  but  they  seem,  where  no  pains  of 
this  kind  have  been  taken,  to  spring  up  naturally  in  the 
same  soil,  and  to  be  plants  of  the  same  tribe  and  family. 
The  ingenious  and  philosophical  Dr.  Millar,  of  Glasgow, 
has  a  very  interesting  speculation  of  the  different  effects 
of  civilization  on  wit  and  humor,  the  progress  of  which 
he  conceives  to  have  a  direct  tendency  to  encourage  wit, 


ON    WIT    AND    HUMOR.  141 

and  to  diminish  humor.  It  is  so  very  well  done,  and  so 
clever,  that  I  shall,  I  am  sure,  be  excused  for  reading 
it: — 

"  The  higher  advances  of  civilization  and  refinement, 
contributed  not  only  to  explode  the  ludicrous  pastimes 
which  had  been  the  delight  of  a  former  age,  but  even  to 
weaken  the  propensity  to  every  species  of  humorous  ex- 
hibition. Although  humor  be  commonly  productive  of 
more  merriment  than  wit,  it  seldom  procures  to  the  pos- 
sessor the  same  degree  of  respect.  To  show  in  a  strong 
light  the  follies,  the  defects,  and  the  improprieties  of  man- 
kind, they  must  be  exhibited  with  peculiar  coloring.  To 
excite  strong  ridicule,  the  picture  must  be  changed,  and 
the  features,  though  like,  must  be  exaggerated.  The 
man  who,  in  conversation,  aims  at  the  display  of  his  tal- 
ents, must  endeavor  to  represent  with  peculiar  heighten- 
ing the  tone,  the  aspect,  the  gesture,  the  deportment  of 
the  person  whom  he  ridicules.  To  paint  folly,  he  must, 
for  the  time,  appear  foolish.  To  exhibit  oddity  and  ab- 
surdity, he  must  himself  become  odd  and  absurd.  There 
is,  in  this  attempt,  something  low  and  buffoonish ;  and  a 
degree  of  that  meanness  which  appeared  in  the  person 
thus  exposed,  is  likely,  by  a  natural  association,  to  re- 
main with  his  representative.  The  latter  is  beheld  in 
the  light  of  a  player,  who  degrades  himself  for  our  enter- 
tainment, and  whom  nothing  but  the  highest  excellence 
in  his  profession  can  save  from  our  contempt. 

"  But  though  the  circumstances  and  manners  of  a  pol- 
ished nation  are  adverse  to  the  cultivation  of  humor, 
they  are  peculiarly  calculated  to  promote  the  circulation 
and  improvement  of  wit.  The  entertainment  arising 
from  the  latter,  has  no  connection  with  those  humiliating 
circumstances  which  are  inseparable  from  the  former ; 
but  is  derived  from  such  occasional  exertions  of  the 
fancy,  as  may  be  consistent  with  the  utmost  elegance 
and  correctness.  The  man  of  wit  has  no  occasion  to 
personate  folly,  or  to  become  the  temporary  butt  of  that 
ridicule  which  he  means  to  excite.  He  assumes  no  gro- 
tesque attitude,  he  employs  no  buffoonish  expression,  nor 
appears  in  any  character  but  his  own.  Unlike  the  man 
of  humor,  he  is  never  prolix  or  tedious,  but,  passing  with 


142  LECTURE    XI. 

rapidity  from  one  object  to  another,  selects  from  the 
group  whatever  suits  his  purpose.  He  sees  with  quick- 
ness those  happy  assemblages,  those  unexpected  opposi- 
tions and  resemblances,  with  which  the  imagination  is 
delighted  and  surprised,  and  by  a  sudden  glance  he  di- 
rects the  attention  to  that  electrical  point  of  contact  by 
which  the  enlivening  stroke  is  communicated."* 

I  admire  this  very  much,  for,  whether  true  or  not,  it  is 
very  interesting  and  ingenious ;  but  I  confess  I  am  not 
quite  convinced  by  it,  nor  can  I  easily  concede  that  the 
effect  of  civilization  is  to  diminish  and  check  the  humor- 
ous. There  are  many  circumstances  in  a  civilized  coun- 
try, which,  on  the  contrary,  go  directly  to  the  encourage- 
ment of  humor.  Dr.  Millar  himself,  mentions  one  of 
very  considerable  importance.  To  this  cause  may  be 
added,  that  there  are  a  greater  number  of  minds  in  a  civ- 
ilized state,  capable  of  seizing  the  finer  inconsistencies  in 
character,  and  relishing  that  humor  which  they  excite  ; 
there  are  a  thousand  little  traits  of  the  humorous,  which 
a  man  of  fine  and  cultivated  understanding  perceives, 
which  are  utterly  lost  upon  grosser  faculties  ;  but  an  age 
of  civilization  is  an  age  in  which  the  number  of  fine  and 
cultivated  understandings  is  the  greatest,  and  in  which, 
therefore,  for  these  reasons,  the  field  of  humor  is  en- 
larged. 

It  is  unfair  to  take  the  stage  as  a  proof,  and  to  ask 
why  we  have  not  Molieres  and  Shakspeares  starting  up 
at  every  period  !  The  preceding  age  has  gleaned  all  the 
twenty  or  thirty  characters  of  strong  and  extravagant 
humor  which  lie  upon  the  surface  of  society ;  not  be- 
cause it  had  greater  talents  for  humor,  but  merely  be- 
cause it  was  the  preceding  age.  The  blustering  captain, 
— the  inebriated  and  witty  rake, — the  obese  alderman, — 
the  squire  in  London, — slaving  poets,  homicide  phy- 
sicians, chambermaids,  valets,  and  duennas, — are  all 
gone ;  employed  by  dramatic  writers  who  had  the  first 
of  the  market.  These  characters  can  not  be  reintro- 
duced on  the  stage ;  they  are  worn  out  there ;  but  they 
exist  in  real  life,  and  of  course  must  exist,  while  men  are 
what  they  ever  have  been. 

*  Millar's  Historical  View  of  the  English  Government,  iv.  357. 


ON    WIT    AND    HUMOR.  143 

Another  reason  which  would  induce  me  to  suspect 
that  Professor  Millar  is  wrong  in  supposing  that,  humor 
decays  in  a  civilized  age,  is,  that  in  a  civilized  age  the 
number  of  idle  people  is  so  immensely  augmented,  and, 
of  course.-  the  demand  for  every  thing  amusing  consider- 
ably increased.  There  are  several  meanings  included 
under  the  term  civilization  ;  it  means,  having  better  cups 
and  saucers  than  we  had  a  century  or  two  centuries  ago; 
better  laws,  better  manners ;  and  it  means,  also,  having 
nothing  to  do, — and  those  who  have  nothing  to  do,  must 
either  be  amused,  or  expire  with  gaping.  For  this  rea- 
son an  amusing  and  entertaining  man,  who  has  humor, 
appears  to  me  to  be  in  high  request  in  a  civilized  coun- 
try. I  allow  that  his  humor,  to  be  well  received,  must 
be  of  a  very  different  complexion  from  what  would  pass 
current  in  more  barbarous  times ;  it  must  be  the  humor 
of  the  mind,  not  the  humor  of  the  body.  It  must  be  de- 
void of  every  shade  of  buffoonery  and  grimace,  and 
managed  with  a  great  degree  of  delicacy  and  skill.  Civ- 
ilization improves  the  humor,  but  I  can  hardly  allow  that 
it  diminishes  it :  in  spite  of  all  Professor  Millar  has  said, 
I  am  strongly  inclined  to  think  there  will  be  more  hu- 
mor, more  agreeable  railleiy,  and  more  facetious  remark, 
displayed  between  seven  and  ten  o'clock  this  evening,  in 
the  innumerable  dinners  which  are  to  be  eaten  by  civil- 
ized people  in  this  vast  city,  than  ten  months  could  have 
produced  in  the  reigns  of  Queen  Elizabeth  or  Henry  the 
Seventh. 

On  the  very  face  of  the  proposition  there  is  indeed 
something  which  it  is  difficult  to  digest.  The  effect  of 
civilization  is,  to  avert  mankind  from  the  contemplation 
of  a  great  part  of  their  own  nature  :  they  observe  incon- 
gruities better  in  a  state  of  barbarism,  or  half  barbarism; 
and  in  proportion  as  they  are  elegant,  acute,  and  learned, 
they  become  dull  and  careless  observers  of  some  of  the 
most  stiking  phenomena  of  the  human  mind. 

I.  wish,  after  all  I  have  said  about  wit  and  humor,  I 
could  satisfy  myself  of  their  good  effects  upon  the  char- 
acter and  disposition  ;  but  I  am  convinced  the  probable 
tendency  of  both  is,  to  corrupt  the  understanding  and 
the  heart.     I  am  not  speaking  of  wit  where  it  is  kept 


144  LECTURE    XI. 

down  by  more  serious  qualities  of  mind,  and  thrown 
into  the  background  of  the  picture  ;  but  where  it  stands 
out  boldly  and  emphatically,  and  is  evidently  the  master 
quality  in  any  particular  mind.  Professed  wits,  though 
they  are  generally  courted  for  the  amusement  they  afford, 
are  seldom  respected  for  the  qualities  they  possess.  The 
habit  of  seeing  things  in  a  witty  point  of  view,  increases, 
and  makes  incursions  from  its  own  proper  regions,  upon 
principles  and  opinions  which  are  ever  held  sacred  by 
the  wise  and  good.  A  witty  man  is  a  dramatic  per- 
former ;  in  process  of  time,  he  can  no  more  exist  without 
applause,  than  he  can  exist  without  air  ;  if  his  audience 
be  small,  or  if  they  are  inattentive,  or  if  a  new  wit 
defrauds  him  of  any  portion  of  his  admiration,  it  is  all 
over  with  him, — he  sickens,  and  is  extinguished.  The 
applauses  of  the  theater  on  which  he  performs  are  so 
essential  to  him  that  he  must  obtain  them  at  the  ex- 
pense of  decency,  friendship,  and  good  feeling.  It  must 
always  be  probable,  too,  that  a  mere  wit  is  a  person  of 
light  and  frivolous  understanding.  His  business  is  not 
to  discover  relations  of  ideas  that  are  useful,  and  have  a 
real  influence  upon  life,  but  to  discover  the  more  trifling 
relations  which  are  only  amusing  ;  he  never  looks  at 
things  with  the  naked  eye  of  common  sense,  but  is 
always  gazing  at  the  world  through  a  Claude  Lorraine 
glass, — discovering  a  thousand  appearances  which  are 
created  only  by  the  instrument  of  inspection,  and  cover- 
ing every  object  with  factitious  and  unnatural  colors. 
In  short,  the  character  of  a  mere  wit  it  is  impossible  to 
consider  as  very  amiable,  very  respectable,  or  very  safe. 
So  far  the  world,  in  judging  of  wit  where  it  has  swal- 
lowed up  all  other  qualities,  judge  aright;  but  I  doubt 
if  they  are  sufficiently  indulgent  to  this  faculty  where  it 
exists  in  a  lesser  degree,  and  as  one  out  of  many  other  in- 
gredients of  the  understanding.  There  is  an  association 
in  men's  minds  between  dullness  and  wisdom,  amuse- 
ment and  folly,  which  has  a  very  powerful  influence  in 
decision  upon  character,  and  is  not  overcome  without 
-considerable  difficulty.  The  reason  is,  that  the  outward 
signs  of  a  dull  man  and  a  wise  man  are  the  same,  and  so 
are  the  outward  signs  of  a  frivolous  man  and  a  witty 


ON    WIT    AND    HUMOR.  145 

man ;  and  we  are  not  to  expect  that  the  majority  will 
be  disposed  to  look  to  much  more  than  the  outward  sign. 
I  believe  the  fact  to  be,  that  wit  is  very  seldom  the  only 
eminent  quality  which  resides  in  the  mind  of  any  man ; 
it  is  commonly  accompanied  by  many  other  talents  of 
every  description,  and  ought  to  be  considered  as  a  strong 
evidence  of  a  fertile  and  superior  understanding.  Al- 
most all  the  great  poets,  orators,  and  statesmen  of  all 
times,  have  been  witty.  Caesar,  Alexander,  Aristotle, 
Descartes,  and  Lord  Bacon,  were  witty  men  ;  so  were 
Cicero,  Shakspeare,  Demosthenes,  Boileau,  Pope,  Dryden, 
Fontenelle,  Jonson,  Waller,  Cowley,  Solon,  Socrates, 
Dr.  Johnson,  and  almost  every  man  who  has  made  a  dis- 
tinguished figure  in  the  House  of  Commons.  I  have 
talked  of  the  danger  of  wit :  I  do  not  mean  by  that  to 
enter  into  commonplace  declamation  against  faculties 
because  they  are  dangerous  ; — wit  is  dangerous,  elo- 
quence is  dangerous,  a  talent  for  observation  is  danger- 
ous, every  thing  is  dangerous  that  has  efficacy  and  vigor 
for  its  characteristics  ;  nothing  is  safe  but  mediocrity. 
The  business  is,  in  conducting  the  understanding  well, 
to  risk  something  ;  to  aim  at  uniting  things  that  are  com- 
monly incompatible.  The  meaning  of  an  extraordinary 
man  is,  that  he  is  eight  men,  not  one  man  ;  that  he  has  as 
much  wit  as  if  he  had  no  sense,  and  as  much  sense  as  if 
he  had  no  wit ;  that  his  conduct  is  as  judicious  as  if  he 
were  the  dullest  of  human  beings,  and  his  imagination  as 
brilliant  as  if  he  were  irretrievably  ruined.  But  when 
wit  is  combined  with  sense  and  information  ;  when  it  is 
softened  by  benevolence,  and  restrained  by  strong  prin- 
ciple ;  when  it  is  in  the  hands  of  a  man  who  can  use  it 
and  despise  it,  who  can  be  witty  and  something  much 
better  than  witty,  who  loves  honor,  justice,  decency, 
good  nature,  morality,  and  religion,  ten  thousand  times 
better  than  wit ; — wit  is  then  a  beautiful  and  delightful 
part  of  our  nature.  There  is  no  more  interesting  spec- 
tacle than  to  see  the  effects  of  wit  upon  the  different 
characters  of  men  ;  than  to  observe  it  expanding  caution, 
relaxing  dignity,  unfreezing  coldness, — teaching  age,  and 
care,  and  pain,  to  smile, — extorting  reluctant  gleams  of 
pleasure  from  melancholy,  and  charming  even  the  pangs 

Q 


146  LECTURE    XI. 

of  grief.  It  is  pleasant  to  observe  how  it  penetrates 
through  the  coldness  and  awkwardness  of  society,  grad- 
ually bringing  men  nearer  together,  and,  like  the  com- 
bined force  of  wine  and  oil,  giving  every  man  a  glad  heart 
and  a  shining  countenance.  Genuine  and  innocent  wit 
like  this,  is  surely  the  flavor  of  the  mind !  Man  could 
direct  his  ways  by  plain  reason,  and  support  his  life  by 
tasteless  food  ;  but  God  has  given  us  wit,  and  flavor,  and 
brightness,  and  laughter,  and  perfumes,  to  enliven  the 
days  of  man's  pilgrimage,  and  to  "  charm  his  pained  steps 
over  the  burning  marie." 


LECTURE    XII. 

ON  TASTE. 

All  language  which  concerns  the  mind  is  borrowed 
from  language  which  respects  material  objects. 

The  mind  itself  is  called  breath,  wind,  air,  in  almost 
all  the  languages  of  the  world.  Apprehension,  comprehen- 
sion, understanding,  perception,  are  all  metaphors  taken 
from  the  human  body,  or  from  substance  of  some  sort  or 
another.  The  reason  is  plain :  the  attention  of  man  is 
first  called  powerfully  to  outer  objects ;  they  are  the  first 
observed  and  the  first  named,  they  make  the  basis  of  all 
languages  ;  and  then,  when  men  can  turn  their  attention 
inwardly  upon  themselves,  and  want  words  for  new 
ideas,  they  naturally  borrow  them  from  already  existing 
language,  and  are  determined  in  their  choice  by  some 
fanciful  analogy  between  the  object  of  mind,  and  the  ob- 
ject of  body.  This  is  exactly  the  case  with  taste.  There 
are  certain  feelings  of  the  mind  which  take  place  upon 
the  perception  of  certain  objects,  or  the  contemplation 
of  certain  actions,  which  men  have  chosen  to  compare 
to  the  sensations  of  the  palate  upon  the  application  of 
certain  flavors.  There  is  no  reason,  that  I  know  of, 
why  they  should  compare  them  to  sensations  excited  by 
taste,  rather  than  by  smell  or  by  touch.  The  feeling  of 
beauty,  excited  by  the  view  of  a  pleasant  landscape,  no 
more  "resembles  any  flavor  which  the  palate  can  taste, 
than  it  resembles  a  soft  and  smooth  object  which  the 
hand  can  touch  :  one  metaphor  has  established  itself,  the 
other  has  not.  We  have  begun,  though  of  late  years,  to 
use  the  word  tact ;  we  say  of  such  a  man  that  he  has  a 
good  tact  in  manners,  that  he  has  a  fine  tact,  exactly  as 
we   would   say  he   has   a  good   taste.     We    might,    in 


148  LECTURE    XII. 

familiar  style,  extend  the  metaphor  to  the  sense  of  smell- 
ing, and  say  of  a  man  that  he  had  a  good  nose  for  the 
ridiculous. 

Taste,  then,  is  a  metaphorical  expression  ;  and  it  is  a 
mere  word  of  classification,  including  several  distinct 
feelings  of  the  mind,  exactly  as  the  primary  taste  includes 
several  distinct  feelings  of  the  body.  It  includes  the 
feeling  of  beauty  in  all  its  very  numerous  meanings,  the 
feeling  of  novelty,  the  feeling  of  grandeur,  the  feeling  of 
sublimity,  the  feeling  of  propriety,  and  perhaps  many 
others,  which,  in  a  subsequent  part  of  my  lecture,  I  shall 
take  pains  to  enumerate. 

Precisely  in  the  same  manner,  the  natural  taste  in- 
cludes the  taste  of  sweet,  sour,  hot,  cold,  moist,  savory, 
and  many  others,  which  are  so  pleasantly  exemplified 
every  day  in  this  great  town;  so  that,  when  we  use  the 
word  taste,  we  must  recollect  that  there  is  no  single 
feeling  of  the  mind  which  has  obtained  that  name,  but 
that  it  is  a  classifying,  comprehensive  word,  embracing 
a  great  number  of  distinct  feelings.  But  why  have  we 
called  all  these  feelings  by  the  name  of  taste  ?  and  why 
have  we  denied  the  appellation  of  taste  to  other  feelings 
of  the  mind  ?  This  is  a  very  important  question  in  the 
discussion,  and  I  will  endeavor  to  answer  it  hereafter ; 
at  present  I  pass  it  by  for  the  sake  of  order  and  arrange- 
ment. It  is  very  clear  why  we  call  all  the  various  feel- 
ings of  the  palate  by  the  name  of  taste, — simply  because 
they  originate  from  the  same  bodily  organ,  the  palate  : 
and  this  analogy  has  given  rise  to  a  very  strange  sort  of 
language, — of  the  organ  of  taste; — as  if  there  were  any 
separate  quarter  of  the  mind  set  apart  for  the  generation 
of  these  feelings.  All  that  we  know  about  the  matter,  is 
this :  men  have  chosen  to  take  a  metaphor  from  the 
body,  and  apply  it  to  the  mind ;  they  have  chosen,  for 
reasons  hereafter  to  be  conjectured,  and  from  some  re- 
mote resemblance,  to  class  some  feelings  under  the  ap- 
pellation of  taste,  others  not.  This  is  the  plain  history  of 
the  fact ;  further  than  this,  is  all  metaphorical  fallacy ; 
and  as  for  any  separate  organ  of  taste,  there  is  either  no 
meaning  to  the  expression,  or,  if  there  be,  it  is  impossible 
io  ascertain  the  fact  which  the  expression  implies. 


ON    TASTE.  149 

I  shall  now  endeavor  to  state  the  various  feelings 
which  have  been  classed  under  this  appellation,  and  the 
extent  to  which  practice  has  extended  and  applied  the 
metaphor  of  taste.  It  matters  not  which  of  the  feelings 
I  state  first,  and  I  do  not  think  I  shall  give  much  offence 
by  beginning  with  that  of  beauty. 

I  do  not  mean  to  analyze  the  feeling  of  the  beautiful 
(that  I  reserve  for  a  separate  lecture),  but  merely  to 
state  it  as  one  of  those  feelings  of  the  mind  to  which  the 
metaphor  of  taste  is  applied.  To  talk  first  of  the 
simplest  and  most  uncompounded  kinds  of  beauty.  We 
say  that  gay  colors  are  beautiful ;  that  all  children,  or 
those  muscular  and  robust  children  called  savages,  have 
a  taste  for  beautiful  colors,  for  smooth  surfaces,  for  har- 
monious sounds,  and  for  regular  figures.  We  say  of 
such  a  man,  meaning  to  pay  him  a  high  compliment, 
that  he  has  a  good  taste  in  the  beauty  of  the  person  ;  of 
another,  that  he  has  a  fine  taste  in  architecture,  meaning 
by  the  expression,  that  he  feels  the  beauties  of  architec- 
ture :  in  short,  wherever  we  use  the  word  beauty  with 
any  degree  of  strictness,  we  almost  always  refer  it  to  the 
general  class  of  taste.  There  is  a  lax  usage  of  the  word 
beautiful,  which  implies  any  thing  that  is  agreeable  or 
convenient.  I  have  heard  country  gentlemen  talk  of  a 
beautiful  scenting-day ;  and  Mrs.  Glasse  talks  of  a 
beautiful  receipt  for  curing  a  ham ;  but  this  is  evidently 
an  analogical,  and  even  a  violent,  usage  of  the  word. 

It  is  used  to  the  sublime.  We  say  of  such  a  man, 
"  He  has  not  taste  enough  to  relish  the  sublimity  of  the 
description  ;"  or,  "  Such  sublime  scenery  is  quite  to  his 
taste." 

The  metaphor  of  taste  has  never  been  much  extended 
to  novelty,  though  there  are  forms  of  language  in  which 
it  would  not  be  improper  to  apply  it.  "  Such  continued 
novelty  is  not  to  my  taste  ;" — "  I  go  into  different  socie- 
ties, because  I  have  a  strong  relish  for  novelty."  How- 
ever, the  word  does  not  seem  so  well  placed  here,  and 
does  not  satisfy  the  ear  so  cleverly  as  in  the  preceding 
instances  ;  and  perhaps  for  this  reason  the  word  taste 
is  most  frequently  and  emphatically  applied,  both  in  its 
original",  and  in  its  figurative  sense,  in  cases  of  some  diffi- 


150  LECTURE    XII. 

culty.  If  a  man  were  to  discover  that  vinegar  was 
sour,  we  should  give  him  no  great  credit  for  his  natural 
taste.  If  any  man  were  to  discover  the  true  language 
of  nature  and  of  feeling  in  this  little  poem  of  Mrs.  Opie's, 
he  would  gain  no  credit  for  his  metaphorical  taste,  be- 
cause the  beauties  of  it  are  too  striking  for  a  moment's 
hesitation  : 

rt  Go,  youth  beloved  !   in  distant  glades, 

New  friends,  new  hopes,  new  joys  to  find  ! 
Yet  sometimes  deign,  midst  fairer  maids, 

•  To  think  on  her  thou  leav'st  behind. 
Thy  love,  thy  fate,  dear  youth,  to  share, 

Must  never  be  my  happy  lot ; 
But  thou  may'st  grant  this  humble  prayer, — 

Forget  me  not,  forget  me  not ! 

"  Yet  should  the  thought  of  my  distress 

Too  painful  to  thy  feelings  be, 
Heed  not  the  wish  I  now  express, 

Nor  ever  deign  to  think  of  me. 
But  oh  !  if  grief  thy  steps  attend, 

If  want,  if  sickness,  be  thy  lot, 
And  thou  require  a  soothing  friend, 

Forget  me  not,  forget  me  not  !"* 

For  this  very  reason,  the  word  taste  has  not  been  ap- 
plied so  often  to  novelty ;  because  whether  a  thing  be 
novel  or  not,  is  no  question  of  critical  inquiry,  but  of 
plain  fact,  which  one  man  can  answer  to  with  as  much 
satisfaction  as  another. 

It  is  certainly  applied  to  ridicule. 

Dr.  Gerard  classes  the  pleasures  of  imitation  under  the 
head  of  taste,  for  it  must  be  remembered  there  is  a 
pleasure  arising  from  mere  imitation,  whether  the  original 
be  agreeable  or  not.  We  should  be  much  pleased  to  see 
an  accurate  picture  of  the  greatest  beauty  now  living  ; 
and  we  should  not  be  displeased  to  see  the  picture  of  a 
rat  or  a  weasel :  the  mere  imitation  itself,  abstracted 
from  all  other  considerations,  gives  pleasure ;  but  though 
this  pleasure  very  much  resembles  those  which  are  said 
to  be  pleasures  of  taste,  and  though  it  ought,  perhaps, 
from  such  resemblance,  to  be  so  classed,  yet  I  doubt  very 
much  if  it  ever  has  been,  or  if  custom  has  extended  the 

*  Edinburgh  Review,  i.  116 


ON    TASTE.  151 

metaphor  to  this  sensation.  Could  we  say  of  a  man, 
who  from  frequently  gazing  on  portraits  had  become  a 
good  judge  of  their  resemblance  to  the  original,  that  he 
had  a  good  taste  in  imitation  ?  We  might  say  he  had  a 
good  taste  in  portraits ;  meaning  by  that,  that  he  could 
judge  of  their  spirit,  their  grace,  and  their  beauty  :  but  I 
much  question  if  we  should  refer  his  accuracy,  in  judging 
of  the  mere  resemblance,  to  the  class  of  tastes ;  though, 
as  I  have  before  said,  I  can  see  no  sort  of  reason  why  we 
do  not. 

Harmony,  which  Dr.  Gerard  enumerates  as  a  separate 
object  of  taste,  appears  to  me  to  rank  under  the  two 
preceding  heads  of  sublimity  and  beauty.  Propriety, 
the  same  author  has  omitted,  though  it  clearly  is  one  of 
the  feelings  referred  to  taste.  A  person  observant  of 
proprieties,  is  said  to  have  a  good  taste  in  manners ;  and 
any  impropriety  in  any  character  of  a  play,  or  a  poem, 
is  imputed  to  bad  taste,— the  discovery  of  it,  to  critical 
taste. 

In  the  lighter  parts  of  morals,  we  may,  perhaps,  use 
the  metaphor  of  taste ;  but  in  the  greater  virtues  and 
vices,  certainly  not.  If  a  man  were  to  kill  the  minister 
and  church- wardens  of  his  parish,  nobody  would  accuse 
him  of  want  of  taste.  The  Scythians  always  ate  their 
grandfathers  ;  they  behaved  very  respectfully  to  them 
for  a  long  time,  but  as  soon  as  their  grandfathers  became 
old  and  troublesome,  and  began  to  tell  long  stories,  they 
immediately  eat  them  :  nothing  could  be  more  improper, 
and  even  disrespectful,  than  dining  off  such  near  and 
venerable  relations ;  yet  we  could  not  with  any  propriety 
accuse  them  of  bad  taste  in  morals.  Neither  is  the 
word  taste  used  in  subjects  of  pure  reasoning.  We 
could  not  say,  that  he  who  discovered  an  error  in  a 
mathematical  problem  had  a  good  taste  for  reasoning; 
that  he  who  made  the  error  had  a  bad  taste ; — to  find 
that  12  times  12  is  144,  is  not  a  business  of  taste. 
Neither  can  we  use  the  word  taste  with  respect  to  very 
useful  inventions.  We  could  not  say  that  Bolton  and 
Watt  exhibited  a  great  deal  of  taste  in  the  improvements 
they  made  upon  the  steam-engine ;  nor  could  we  say 
that  Archimedes  exhibited  a  fine  taste  in  the  machines 


152  LECTURE    XII. 

he  invented  for  dashing  to  pieces  the  Roman  galleys,  and 
knocking  out  the  brains  of  the  Roman  soldiers.  Some 
of  these  things  appear  too  important  for  the  application 
of  that  word ;  others,  too  certain.  It  seems  to  have 
been  intended  that  the  metaphor  should  apply  to  feelings 
connected  with  pleasure  and  pain,  not  with  duties  and 
crimes ;  with  the  superfluous,  the  lighter,  and  more 
luxurious  sensations  of  the  mind,  not  with  those  which 
become  the  subjects  of  approbation  and  disapprobation ; 
not  with  those  parts  of  knowledge  which  are  reducible  to 
proof  and  demonstration,  but  in  those  which  are  shaded 
with  doubt,  and  rest  only  on  the  basis  of  opinion.  In 
order  to  see  the  tendency  and  spirit  of  the  metaphor,  try 
to  misapply  it  in  one  or  two  instances,  and  observe  what 
sort  of  feelings  and  objections  the  misapplication  suggests. 
Suppose  any  body  were  to  talk  to  you  of  the  bad  taste  of 
a  mother  who  had  murdered  her  child,  what  would  your 
answer  be  ?  "  Do  you  call  that  by  the  light  name  of 
taste,  on  which  the  dearest  interests  of  mankind  depend  ? 
Is  the  feeling  which  a  mother  has  for  her  child  to  be 
classed  with  the  love  of  splendid  colors,  accurate  imita- 
tion, and  judicious  description  ?  Is  there  the  same 
doubt  which  hangs  upon  both  ?  Are  the  great  rules  of 
morals  referable  to  no  other  and  more  certain  proofs 
than  those  which  decide  upon  the  novel,  the  beautiful, 
and  the  sublime  ?"  These  are  the  feelings  and  objections 
which  naturally  pass  through  every  man's  mind,  and 
evince  the  conceptions  he  has  gradually  formed  of  the 
limits  and  province  of  taste. 

There  is  another  consideration,  perhaps,  which  has 
contributed  to  affix  the  limits  of  this  metaphor.  When 
we  ascribe  good  or  bad  taste  to  any  one,  it  is  most  com- 
monly for  doing  or  feeling  something,  where  he  was  at 
full  liberty  to  have  done  or  said  the  contrary.  We  are 
not  apt  to  impute  the  excellence,  or  the  defect,  where 
there  is  no  fair  exertion  of  the  will.  We  may  say  of  a 
lady  that  she  walks  in  good  taste,  but  not  that  she 
tumbles  down  in  good  taste.  We  could  not  say  that  a 
lady  fainted  away  in  good  taste,  though  I  think  we 
might  speak  of  a  good  and  bad  taste  in  blushing.  For 
the  same  reason,  we  can  not  talk  of  the  bad  taste  of  deep 


ON    TASTE.  153 

melancholy  or  despair,  or  the  bad  taste  of  being  very- 
short  and  very  ugly  ;  because  it  is  presumed  that  all 
men  and  women  would  be  cheerful,  tall,  and  beautiful,  if 
they  could. 

Natural  tastes  are  sometimes  so  plain  and  strong,  that 
they  are  immediately  pronounced  upon  by  every  body. 
The  most  determined  skeptic,  if  you  catch  him  in  a 
moment  of  candor,  would  allow  that  a  good  ripe  peach 
was  sweet.  We  say  that  a  man  recognizes  this  plain, 
indisputable  fact  by  his  taste,  though  he  exercises  no 
reasoning  powers,  and  employs  no  reflection  in  arriving 
at  the  determination.  So  in  the  plainest  and  most 
undoubted  examples  of  intellectual  taste.  If  he  were 
struck  with  some  of  the  sublimest  traits  of  Mrs.  Siddons' 
acting,  or  if  he  was  enchanted  with  the  first  view  of 
Juan  Fernandez,  we  should  still  refer  these  impressions 
to  the  class  of  tastes,  even  though  they  had  cost  him  no 
effort  in  the  acquisition,  and  though  the  feelings  followed 
in  all  human  beings  as  directly  as  any  one  fact  can 
follow  another  in  the  various  works  of  nature.  We 
should  call  the  detection  of  good  or  bad  flavor,  made  by 
repeated  efforts  and  close  attention,  an  act  of  taste ;  and 
in  the  same  manner  the  detection  of  beauty  or  deformity 
in  intellectual  taste,  with  whatever  degree  of  labor  and 
reflection  effected.  If,  from  natural  superiority  of  that 
organ,  any  man  could  discover  flavor,  insensible  to 
common  palates,  we  of  course  should  refer  his  power, 
however  extraordinary,  to  taste.  Or  if,  by  long  practice, 
he  had  acquired  the  same  rapid  precision,  we  should  still 
refer  it  to  the  same  bodily  organ.  So  in  the  intellectual 
taste,  whether  the  feeling  follow  immediately  upon  the 
perception,  whether  it  be  preceded  by  critical  investiga- 
tion, whether  it  be  unusually  delicate  and  true,  either 
from  natural  talents  or  long  habit,  the  feeling  is  always 
referred  to  taste,  which  is  a  general  word  for  that  affec- 
tion of  the  mind  existing  in  any  degree,  and  proceeding 
from  any  cause.  I  lay  the  greater  stress  upon  this 
observation,  because  I  perceive  in  many  persons  who 
speculate  upon  these  subjects,  a  disposition  only  to 
allow  the  use  of  the  word  in  cases  where  there  is  a 
critical,  active  exertion  of  the  mind,  and  an  effort  to 


154  LECTURE    XII. 

discriminate ;  whereas  it  is  undoubtedly  used  also,  in 
those  cases  where  the  mind  is  merely  passive,  and  where 
the  feeling  of  beauty  would  be  strongly  excited  in  any 
human  being,  without  the  smallest  effort  to  judge  between 
conflicting  sensations. 

The  subject  of  taste  has  given  rise  to  a  very  curious 
controversy ; — whether  every  feeling  of  taste  depends 
upon  accidental  association,  or  whether,  by  the  original 
constitution  of  nature,  it  is  connected  with  any  par- 
ticular object  of  sense,  it  is  admitted  on  all  hands  that 
the  feeling  of  beauty  and  sublimity  very  frequently,  and 
even  in  a  great  majority  of  instances,  depends  upon 
mere  association.  For  one  instance : — in  the  estimation 
of  Europeans,  part  of  the  beauty  of  a  face  is  the  color 
of  the  cheek  ;  not  that  there  is  something  in  that  partic- 
ular position  of  red  color,  which,  I  believe,  is  of  itself 
beautiful, — but  habit  has  connected  it  also  with  the  idea 
of  health.  An  Indian  requires  that  his  wife's  face  should 
be  of  the  color  of  good  marketable  sea-coal ;  another 
tribe  is  enamored  of  deep  orange  ;  and  a  cheek  of  copper 
is  irresistible  to  a  fourth.  Every  color  is  agreeable,  in 
each  of  these  instances,  which  is  connected  with  the  idea 
of  youth  and  beauty ;  the  beauty  is  not  in  the  color 
itself,  but  in  the  notions  which  the  color  summons  up. 
Instances  of  this  source  of  our  ideas  of  the  beautiful  are 
innumerable,  and  universally  admitted.  The  question 
is,  Is  there  any  object  which  originally,  and  of  itself,  ex- 
cites that  feeling?  The  very  newest  and  the  most 
fashionable  philosophy  says,  No.  The  Rev.  Mr.  Alison, 
in  his  very  beautiful  work  on  Taste,  says  no, — and  says 
no,  as  he  says  every  thing,  with  great  modesty,  and  great 
ingenuity  ;  but  though  he  is  a  very  agreeable  writer,  and 
one  of  the  best  of  men,  I  have  very  great  doubts  if  he  is 
right  in  his  system.  "In  the  first  place,"  says  Mr. 
Alison,  "  every  feeling  of  beauty  and  sublimity  is  an 
emotion.  Now  mere  matter  is  unfitted  to  produce  any 
kind  of  emotion."  If  this  be  true,  it  settles  the  question  ; 
it  is  only  upon  the  supposition  that  mere  matter  can 
produce  emotion,  that  the  opposite  opinion  has  ever  been 
advanced :  it  is  precisely  the  thing  to  be  proved.  It 
appears  to  me  very  singular  to  say,  that  mere  matter 


ON    TASTE.  155 

can  never  produce  emotion  upon  the  senses,  and  that 
we  can  only  apply  to  it  the  expressions  of  sensation  and 
perception.  The  theory  of  this  school  is,  that  Provi- 
dence has  created  a  great  number  of  objects  which  it 
intends  you  should  see,  hear,  feel,  taste,  and  smell,  with- 
out caring  a  single  breath  whether  you  exercised  your 
senses  upon  them  or  not ;  that  all  the  primary  impulses 
of  the  mind  must  be  mere  intelligences,  unaccompanied 
by  any  emotion  of  pleasure ;  that  pleasure  might  be 
added  to  them  afterward,  by  pure  accident,  but  that 
originally,  and  according  to  the  scheme  of  nature,  the 
senses  were  the  channels  of  intelligence,  never  the 
sources  of  gratification.  This  doctrine  was  certainly 
never  conceived  in  a  land  of  luxury.  I  should  like  to 
try  a  Scotch  gentleman,  upon  his  first  arrival  in  this 
country,  with  the  taste  of  ripe  fruit,  and  leave  him  to 
judge  after  that,  whether  nature  had  confined  the  senses 
to  such  dry  and  ungracious  occupations,  as  whether 
mere  matter  could  produce  emotion.  Such  doctrines 
may  do  very  well  in  the  chambers  of  a  northern  meta- 
physician, but  they  are  untenable  in  the  light  of  the 
world  ;  they  are  refuted,  nobly  refuted,  twenty  times  in 
a  year,  at  Fishmongers'  Hall.  If  you  deny  that  matter 
can  produce  emotion,  judge  on  these  civic  occasions,  of 
the  power  of  gusts,  and  relishes,  and  flavors !  Look  at 
men  when  (as  Bishop  Taylor  says)  they  are  "  gathered 
round  the  eels  of  Syene,  and  the  oysters  of  Lucrinus, 
and  when  the  Lesbian  and  Chian  wines  descend  through 
the  limbec  of  the  tongue  and  larynx  ;  when  they  receive 
the  juice  of  fishes,  and  the  marrow  of  the  laborious  ox, 
and  the  tender  lard  of  Apulian  swine,  and  the  condited 
stomach  of  the  scams :" — is  this  nothing  but  mere  sen- 
sation ?  is  there  no  emotion,  no  panting,  no  wheezing, 
no  deglutition  ?  is  this  the  calm  acquisition  of  intelli- 
gence, and  the  quiet  office  ascribed  to  the  senses  ? — or 
is  it  a  proof  that  Nature  has  infused  into  her  original 
creations,  the  power  of  gratifying  that  sense  which  dis- 
tinguishes them,  and  to  every  atom  of  matter  has  added 
an  atom  of  joy  ? 

That   there   are  some  tastes  originally  agreeable,  I 
think  can  hardly  be  denied  ;  and  that  Nature  has  origi- 


156  LECTURE    XII. 

nally,  and  independently  of  all  associations,  made  some 
sounds  more  agreeable  than  others,  seems  to  me,  I  con- 
fess, equally  clear.  I  can  never  believe  that  any  man 
could  sit  in  a  pensive  mood  listening  to  the  sharpening 
of  a  saw,  and  think  it  as  naturally  agreeable,  and  as 
plaintive,  as  the  song  of  a  linnet ;  and  I  should  very 
much  suspect  that  philosophy,  which  teaches  that  the 
odor  of  superannuated  Cheshire  cheese,  is,  by  the  con- 
stitution of  nature,  and  antecedent  to  all  connection  of 
other  ideas,  as  agreeable  as  that  smell  with  which  the 
flowers  of  the  field  thank  Heaven  for  the  gentle  rains,  or 
as  the  fragrance  of  the  spring  when  wTe  inhale  from  afar 
"  the  milk-white  thorn  that  scents  the  evening  gale." 

One  circumstance,  which  appears  to  have  led  to  these 
conclusions,  is  the  example  of  those  same  sensations 
which  are  sometimes  ludicrous,  sometimes  sublime, 
sometimes  fearful,  according  to  the  ideas  with  which 
they  are  associated.  For  instance,  the  sound  of  a  trum- 
pet suggests  the  dreadful  idea  of  a  battle,  and  of  the 
approach  of  armed  men ;  but  to  all  men  brought  up  at 
Queen's  College,  Oxford,  it  must  be  associated  with  eat- 
ing and  drinking,  for  they  are  always  called  to  dinner 
by  sound  of  trumpet :  and  I  have  a  little  daughter  at 
home,  who,  if  she  heard  the  sound  of  a  trumpet,  would 
run  to  the  window,  expecting  to  see  the  puppet-show  of 
Punch,  which  is  carried  about  the  streets.  So  with  a 
hiss :  a  hiss  is  either  foolish,  or  tremendous,  or  sublime. 
The  hissing  of  a  pancake  is  absurd :  the  first  faint  hiss 
that  arises  from  the  extremity  of  the  pit  on  the  evening 
of  a  new  play,  sinks  the  soul  of  the  author  within  him, 
and  makes  him  curse  himself  and  his  Thalia  ;  the  hissing 
of  a  cobra  di  capello  is  sublime, — it  is  the  whisper  of 
death !  But  all  these  instances  prove  nothing  ;  for  we 
are  not  denying  that  there  are  many  sounds,  tastes,  and 
sights,  which  nature  has  made  so  indifferent,  that  asso- 
ciation may  make  them  any  thing.  It  is  very  true  what 
Mr.  Alison  says,  "  that  there  are  many  sensations  uni- 
versally called  sublime,  which  association  may  make 
otherwise."*  This  is  true  enough,  but  it  is  not  to  the 
purpose.  I  admit  readily,  that  a  fortuitous  connection 
*  Alison  on  Taste,  p.  139. 


ON    TASTE.  157 

of  thought  can  make  it  otherwise  than  sublime  ;  but  the 
question  is,  Did  it  receive  from  nature  the  character  of 
sublime  ?  does  any  thing  receive  from  nature  the  char- 
acter of  sublime,  or  the  character  of  beautiful  ?  and 
would  any  thing  perpetually  display,  and  constantly  pre- 
serve, such  character,  if  no  accident  intervened  to  raise 
up  a  contrary  association  ?  Certainty  on  such  subjects 
can  not  be  attained ;  but  I,  for  one,  strongly  believe  in 
the  affirmative  of  the  question, — that  Nature  speaks  to 
the  mind  of  man  immediately  in  beautiful  and  sublime 
language  ;  that  she  astonishes  him  with  magnitude, 
appals  him  with  darkness,  cheers  him  with  splendor, 
soothes  him  with  harmony,  captivates  him  with  emotion, 
enchants  him  with  fame;  she  never  intended  man  should 
walk  among  her  flowers,  and  her  fields,  and  her  streams, 
unmoved ;  nor  did  she  rear  the  strength  of  the  hills  in 
vain,  or  mean  that  we  should  look  with  a  stupid  heart 
on  the  wild  glory  of  the  torrent,  bursting  from  the  dark- 
ness of  the  forest,  and  dashing  over  the  crumbling  rock. 
I  would  as  soon  deny  hardness,  or  softness,  or  figure,  to 
be  qualities  of  matter,  as  I  would  deny  beauty  or 
sublimity  to  belong  to  its  qualities. 

Every  man  is  as  good  a  judge  of  a  question  like  this, 
as  the  ablest  metaphysician.  Walk  in  the  fields  in  one 
of  the  mornings  of  May,  and  if  you  carry  with  you  a 
mind  unpolluted  with  harm,  watch  how  it  is  impressed. 
You  are  delighted  with  the  beauty  of  colors ;  are  not 
those  colors  beautiful  ?  You  breathe  vegetable  fragrance ; 
is  not  that  fragrance  grateful  ?  You  see  the  sun  rising 
from  behind  a  mountain,  and  the  heavens  painted  with 
light;  is  not  that  renewal  of  the  light  of  the  morning 
sublime  ?  You  reject  all  obvious  reasons,  and  say  that 
these  things  are  beautiful  and  sublime  because  the  acci- 
dents of  life  have  made  them  so ; — I  say  they  are  beau- 
tiful and  sublime,  because  God  has  made  them  so !  that 
it  is  the  original,  indelible  character  impressed  upon 
them  by  Him,  who  has  opened  these  sources  of  simple 
pleasure,  to  calm,  perhaps,  the  perturbations  of  sense, 
and  to  make  us  love  that  joy  which  is  purchased  without 
giving  pain  to  another  man's  heart,  and  without  entailing 
reproach  upon  our  own. 


158  LECTURE    XII. 

There  is  one  other  question,  before  I  conclude  this 
subject,  on  which  I  wish  to  say  something ;  a  question 
like  a  German  chancery  suit,  which  is  handed  down 
from  father  to  son  as  a  matter  of  course,  and  the  de- 
cision of  which  no  man  ever  dreams  of  as  a  possible 
event.  Some  late  traveler  in  Germany  speaks  of  a  suit 
in  the  imperial  chamber  of  Wetzlar,  which  had  been 
pending  170  years.  The  cause  came  on  for  a  first  hear- 
ing as  he  passed  through  the  country ;  the  result  he  did 
not  hear,  as  the  Teutonic  Master  of  the  Rolls  took 
time  to  consider.  In  the  same  manner,  the  world  is 
always  taking  time  to  consider  about  the  standard  of 
taste.  Is  there  any  standard  of  taste,  and  what  is  it  ? 
This  is  the  question  that  has  been  discussed  and  re-dis- 
cussed from  time  immemorial,  and  in  which  question  I 
suppose  I  have  little  to  add  to  those  who  have  so  often 
handled  it  before  me.  As  I  have  before  said,  taste  is  a 
general  term  for  a  great  number  of  distinct  feelings  : 
if  there  be  no  standard  for  approbation  and  disappro- 
bation in  these  feelings,  which  are  the  constituent  ele- 
ments of  taste,  there  is  no  standard  for  taste  ;  but  if  a 
good  and  a  bad  can  be  asserted  of  these  feelings  with 
any  degree  of  certainty,  then  there  is  a  standard  of 
taste.  Let  us  try  it  in  one  of  the  departments  of  taste, 
the  beautiful ;  and  then  the  question  will  be,  is  there 
any  standard  of  the  beautiful  ?  Now,  if  a  delirious 
virtuoso  were  to  purchase  one  of  those  sign-paintings  in 
which  King  Charles  the  Second,  seated  on  the  oak-tree, 
announces  the  dispensation  of  beer  and  other  uncourtly 
refreshments,  and  if  he  were  to  pronounce  it  more  beau- 
tiful than  Mr.  Troward's  noble  picture  by  Leonardo  da 
Vinci,* — so  long  as  he  thinks  it  is  so,  it  unquestionably 
is  so  to  him.  There  can  be  no  doubt  but  that  he  is  the 
standard  of  taste  to  himself,  because,  when  he  calls  the 
thing  beautiful,  he  only  means  to  say  that  it  excites  in 
him  that  emotion,  of  the  real  existence  of  which  he  of 
course  can  be  the  only  judge.  But  will  this  same  sign- 
post appear  beautiful  to  others  ?  and  to  whom  ?  and  to 

*  This  picture  of  the  Logos  was  in  the  possession  of  Mr.  Troward 
when  this  lecture  was  deliveTed :  it  is  now  in  the  collection  of  Mr.  Miles, 
of  Leigh  Court,  near  Bristol. 


ON    TASTE.  159 

how  many  must  it  appear  to  be  so,  before  you  call  it 
absolutely  beautiful  ?  To  the  mob,  to  all  human  beings, 
or  only  to  the  enlightened  few  ?  I  answer  to  this,  that 
the  judges  differ  just  according  to  the  difficulty  of  the 
subject :  there  are  some  questions  of  the  beautiful  so 
very  simple,  for  the  decision  of  which  such  very  little 
understanding  is  required,  and  where  the  experience  of 
all  men  is  so  much  upon  a  level,  that  in  those,  the  mass 
of  mankind  are  certainly  the  proper  referees.  Are 
splendid  colors  more  beautiful  than  dull  colors  ?  Is  a 
soft  surface  more  agreeable  than  a  hard  surface  ?  In 
such  simple  questions  of  beauty  as  this,  the  most  ordi- 
nary understanding  is  as  good  as  the  best.  But  when  you 
come  to  the  complicated  meaning  of  the  word  beauty, 
adopted  in  the  phrase  of  "  a  beautiful  poem,"  or  "  a 
beautiful  picture," — when  the  subject  is  to  be  under- 
stood, the  selection  decided  on,  comparison  with  other 
rival  efforts  made, — a  laborer  from  the  streets  can  be  no 
judge  of  such  excellences  as  these,  and  therefore  his 
opinion  can  form  no  part  of  that  standard  to  which  1 
refer  the  decision  in  this  species  of  beauty  ;  for  we  must 
take  along  with  us,  that  as  the  word  taste  is  merely  a 
general  expression  for  several  distinct  feelings,  so  the 
term  beauty,  itself  involves  no  small  number  of  distinct 
feelings  which  have  received  this  common  appellation. 
If,  then,  the  species  of  beauty  be  stated,  and  a  standard 
required  for  its  excellences  and  defects,  I  determine  it 
by  voting,  by  no  means  admitting  universal  suffrage, 
but  requiring  that  a  man  shall  have  forty  shillings  a  year 
in  common  sense,  and  have  paid  the  usual  taxes  of  labor, 
attention,  observation,  and  so  on.  But,  to  drop  the 
metaphor,  these  are  the  ingredients  which  must  enter 
into  the  composition  of  any  mind  which  can  be  allowed 
to  decide  upon  any  species  of  beauty.  In  the  first  place 
there  must  be  an  absence  of  all  prejudice  and  party 
spirit,  because,  though  this  may  inspire  the  feeling  of 
beauty,  as  well  as  any  other  cause,  still  it  is  a  very 
ephemeral  cause  of  that  feeling ;  and  in  speaking  of  the 
standard  of  beauty,  we  do  not  mean  only  that  which 
will  be  judged  beautiful  to-day,  but  that  which  will  be 
judged  beautiful  for  ages  to  come.     Then  we  must  re- 


160  LECTURE    XII. 

member,  that  the  word  beautiful  always  implies  some 
comparison.  The  prose  of  Bunyan  is  agreeable  to  me 
till  1  have  read  that  of  Dryden  ;  Dryden's,  till  I  am  fa- 
miliarized to  the  works  of  Addison.  The  arrantest  daub 
in  painting  may  appear  agreeable  to  me,  till  I  have  seen 
the  masters  in  the  Flemish  school ;  and  I  cease  to  ad- 
mire these  latter  when  I  am  become  acquainted  with 
the  great  Italian  pictures.  The  very  term  beautiful 
implies  something  superior  to  common  effects  ;  and 
therefore  we  require  in  a  judge  of  the  beautiful,  that 
from  experience  he  should  have  ascertained  what  is  a 
common  effect,  what  not.  A  man  who  has  seen  very 
few  pictures,  is  a  bad  judge  of  any  single  picture,  be- 
cause, though  he  can  tell  whether  he  is  pleased  or  not, 
he  can  not  tell  whether  he  is  pleased  more  or  less  than 
he  should  be  by  pictures  in  general.  Therefore,  in  ad- 
dition to  candor,  a  judge  of  the  beautiful  must  have 
experience  ; — and  he  must  also  have  delicacy  of  feeling: 
a  man  may  reason  himself  out  of  this  feeling  of  beauty, 
or  reason  himself  into  it ;  but,  after  all,  the  thing  is  a 
matter  of  feeling,  and  there  are  some  men  of  such  me- 
tallic nerves,  and  blunt  entrails,  that  Milton  could  never 
have  written  them  into  sublimity,  or  Michael  Angelo 
painted  them  into  emotion  :  of  course  they  can  be  no 
judges  of  the  beautiful,  any  more  than  the  blind  can  de- 
termine upon  the  diversity  of  colors.  Wherever,  then, 
the  standard  of  any  species  of  beauty  is  required,  we 
may  safely  say  it  rests  in  the  opinion  of  candid  men,  of 
men  who  have  had  experience  in  that  department  of 
beauty,  who  have  feeling  for  it,  and  who  have  competent 
understandings  to  judge  of  the  design  and  reasoning, 
which  are  always  the  highest  and  most  excellent  of  all 
beauties.  Such  men,  where  they  are  to  be  found,  form 
the  standard  in  every  department  of  beauty,  and  in 
every  ingredient  of  taste.  How  such  critics  are  to  be 
found,  is  another  question  :  that  they  exist,  no  man 
doubts  ;  and  their  joint  influence  ultimately  prevails,  and 
gives  the  law  to  public  opinion.  But  I  hear  some  men 
asking  where  they  are  to  be  found  ?  and  who  they  are  ? 
with  a  sort  of  exultation,  as  if  there  were  any  wit,  or 
talent,  or  importance,  in  the  question.     They  are  to  be 


ON    TASTE.  161 

found  in  Dover  Street,  Albemarle  Street,  Berkeley  Square, 
the  Temple  ;  anywhere  wherever  reading,  thinking  men, 
who  have  seen  a  great  deal  of  the  world,  are  to  be 
found.  I  myself  could  mention  the  names  of  twenty- 
persons,  whose  opinions  influence  the  public  taste  in  this 
town ;  and  then,  when  opinions  are  settled  here,  those 
opinions  go  down  by  the  mail-coach,  to  regulate  all  mat- 
ters of  taste  for  the  provinces. 

The  progress  of  good  taste,  however,  though  it  is 
certain  and  irresistible,  is  slow.  Mistaken  pleasantry, 
false  ornament,  and  affected  conceit,  perish  by  the  dis- 
criminating hand  of  time,  that  lifts  up  from  the  dust  of 
oblivion,  the  grand  and  simple  efforts  of  genius.  Title, 
rank,  prejudice,  party,  artifice,  and  a  thousand  disturbing 
forces,  are  always  at  work  to  confer  unmerited  fame ; 
but  every  recurring  year  contributes  its  remedy  to  these 
infringements  on  justice  and  good  sense.  The  breath 
of  living  acclamation  can  not  reach  the  ages  which  are 
to  come  :  the  judges  and  the  judged  are  no  more  ;  passion 
is  extinguished  ;  party  is  forgotten  :  and  the  mild  yet 
inflexible  decisions  of  taste,  will  receive  nothing,  as  the 
price  of  praise,  but  the  solid  exertions  of  superior  talent. 
Justice  is  pleasant,  even  when  she  destroys.  It  is  a 
grateful  homage  to  common  sense,  to  see  those  produc- 
tions hastening  to  that  oblivion,  in  their  progress  to  which 
they  should  never  have  been  retarded.  But  it  is  much 
more  pleasant  to  witness  the  power  of  taste  in  the  work 
of  preservation  and  lasting  praise  ; — to  think  that,  in 
these  fleeting  and  evanescent  feelings  of  the  beautiful 
and  the  sublime,  men  have  discovered  something  as  fixed 
and  as  positive,  as  if  they  were  measuring  the  flow  of  the 
tides,  or  weighing  the  stones  on  which  they  tread  ; — to 
think  that  there  lives  not,  in  the  civilized  world,  a  being 
who  knows  he  has  a  mind,  and  who  knows  not  that 
Virgil  and  Homer  have  written,  that  Raffaelle  has  paint- 
ed, and  that  Tully  has  spoken.  Intrenched  in  these  ever- 
lasting bulwarks  against  barbarism,  Taste  points  out  to 
the  races  of  men,  as  they  spring  up  in  the  order  of  time, 
on  what  path  they  shall  guide  the  labors  of  the  human 
spirit.     Here  she  is  safe  ;  hence  she  never  can  be  driven, 


162  LECTURE    XII. 

while  one  atom  of  matter  clings  to  another,  and  till 
man,  with  all  his  wonderful  system  of  feeling  and  thought, 
is  called  away  to  Him  who  is  the  great  Author  of  all 
that  is  beautiful,  and  all  that  is  sublime,  and  all  that  is 
good! 


LECTURE    XIII. 


ON  THE  BEAUTIFUL. 


The  three  next  lectures  which  I  propose  to  deliver  in 
this  place,  will  be  on  the  same  subject  as  that  with  which 
I  am  at  present  engaged  {the  Beautiful).  I  have  found 
it  quite  impossible  to  compress  this  very  ample  subject 
into  a  less  space  ;  and  even  with  such  limits  I  have  been 
compelled  to  pass  over  many  topics  of  discussion  with  a 
brevity  very  ill  suited  to  their  importance,  and  little  fa- 
vorable to  perspicuity.  I  mention  the  length  to  which  I 
intend  to  carry  this  discussion,  lest  any  one  should  con- 
ceive, after  I  had  finished  this  lecture,  that  I  had  done 
with  the  subject,  and  consequently  had  treated  it  very  je- 
junely and  imperfectly :  that  I  shall  treat  it  imperfectly 
enough  at  last,  I  can  easily  believe  ;  but  still  I  prefer  to 
be  judged  after  I  am  heard,  rather  than  before. 

The  best  evidence  we  can  procure  of  the  resemblance 
of  our  feelings,  is  by  language.  When  men  give  one 
common  name  to  very  dissimilar  objects,  it  is  most  prob- 
able that  they  give  it  because  these  objects,  though  ap- 
parently dissimilar,  produce  effects  upon  the  mind  which 
materially  resemble  each  other :  therefore,  the  mode  in 
which  I  propose  to  examine  the  nature  of  the  beautiful, 
is,  first,  to  state  the  fact  with  respect  to  language,  the 
various  classes  of  objects  and  occasions  where  a  person 
understanding  his  own  language  thoroughly,  and  apply- 
ing it  properly,  would  use  the  expression  of  beautiful. 

In  the  first  place,  it  is  applied  to  the  simplest  sensa- 
tions of  sight,  as  color,  figure,  and  so  forth ;  it  is  applied 
to  sounds,  either  simple  or  compound ;  but,  I  believe, 
neither  to  touch,  taste,  nor  smell.  We  should  not  say 
that  the  feeling  of  velvet,  or  the  taste  of  sugar,  or  the 


164  LECTURE    XIII. 

smell  of  a  rose,  was  beautiful :  the  latter  instance,  how- 
ever, is  rather  doubtful ;  if  the  expression  be  not  already- 
legitimated,  I  think  we  may  say  it  will  be  so  very  soon. 
We  apply  the  expression  to  the  face  of  nature,  to  land- 
scape, to  personal  appearance,  to  animals,  to  poetry, 
painting,  sculpture,  and  all  the  fine  arts  which  are  called 
mimetic,  and  represent  animate  or  inanimate  nature. 
We  apply  it  to  several  moral  feelings  of  the  mind,  to 
architecture,  and  to  invention  in  machinery.  These 
are,  I  fancy,  the  principal  subjects  which  justify  the  ap- 
plication of  the  word. 

There  is  one  usage  of  the  word  to  which  I  shall  not 
refer  in  the  subsequent  discussion,  because  it  is  evident- 
ly used  in  a  figurative  sense  ;  as  when  we  say  that  any 
thing  which  is  good,  is  beautiful ;  and  in  this  sense  we 
should  say  that  Milton's  description  of  the  falling  angels 
was  beautiful,  though  in  strictness  it  is  sublime,  and  not 
beautiful : — 

"  Him.  the  Almighty  Power 
Hurl'd  headlong  flaming  from  the  ethereal  sky, 
With  hideous  ruin  and  combustion,  down 
To  bottomless  perdition  ;  there  to  dwell 
In  adamantine  chains  and  penal  fire, 
Who  durst  defy  the  Omnipotent  to  arms. 
Nine  times  the  space  that  measures  day  and  night 
To  mortal  men,  he  with  his  horrid  crew 
Lay  vanquish'd,  rolling  in  the  fiery  gulf, 
Confounded,  though  immortal :  But  his  doom 
Reserv'd  him  to  more  wrath  ;  for  now  the  thought 
Both  of  lost  happiness,  and  lasting  pain, 
Torments  him  ;  round  he  throws  his  baleful  eyes, 
That  witness'd  huge  affliction  and  dismay 
Mixt  with  obdurate  pride  and  steadfast  hate 
At  once,  as  far  as  angels,  ken,  he  views 
The  dismal  situation  waste  and  wild : 
A  dungeon  horrible  on  all  sides  round, 
As  one  great  furnace  flam'd ;  yet  from  those  flames 
No  light ;  but  rather  darkness  visible 
Serv'd  only  to  discover  sights  of  woe, 
Regions  of  sorrow,  doleful  shades,  where  peace 
And  rest  can  never  dwell ;   hope  never  comes 
That  comes  to  all ;  but  torture  without  end 
Still  urges,  and  a  fiery  deluge,  fed 
With  ever-burning  sulphur  unconsum'd." 

But  the  word  beautiful,  as  a  general  word  for  excellence, 
is  a  part  of  that  practice  in  language,  which,  where  there 


ON    THE    BEAUTIFUL.  165 

are  many  qualities, or  many  things,  puts  one  of  the  most 
conspicuous,  to  stand  for  the  whole.  Thus,  virtue,  which 
originally  signifies  personal  courage,  has  become  a  gen- 
eral name  for  all  good  qualities.  England  is  the  general 
name  for  all  the  three  branches  of  the  empire ;  and  the 
beautiful  has  become  a  general  term  for  all  the  various 
excellences  in  poetry. 

Having,  then,  ascertained  the  facts  respecting  the  ap- 
plication of  the  term  beauty,  there  are  two  things  which 
remain  to  be  done, — to  ascertain  the  causes,  in  each  re- 
spective instance,  which  excite  the  feeling  of  the  beauti- 
ful in  my  mind  ;  and  next,  to  discover  whether  these  va- 
rious examples  of  this  feeling,  which  are  called  by  a 
common  name,  do,  in  fact,  possess  a  common  nature : 
for  if  I  can  point  out  the  cause  or  causes  of  this  emotion, 
or  class  of  emotions,  and  ascertain  its  nature,  or  their  na- 
tures, I  see  nothing  else  which  I  have  to  do. 

A  very  great  ambiguity  has  arisen  in  all  language, 
from  the  confusion  which  has  been  made  between  the 
causes  which  act  upon  the  mind,  and  the  affections  of 
the  mind  itself.  In  hardness  or  softness,  there  ought  to 
be  one  word  to  signify  that  cause,  which  impresses  the 
mind  in  that  particular  manner,  and  another  for  the  im- 
pression itself.  So  in  beauty,  the  same  word  expresses 
the  emotion  of  the  mind,  and  the  cause  of  that  emotion  : 
it  is  absolutely  necessary,  in  order  to  arrive  at  any  defi- 
nite opinions  on  this  subject,  to  specify  to  ourselves  and 
others,  in  which  of  these  two  senses  we  are  making  use 
of  the  term  ;  and,  to  follow  my  own  advice,  I  use  the 
term  beauty  always  as  a  feeling  of  the  mind.  When  I 
say  that  such  an  object  is  beautiful,  I  mean  that  it  has  in 
itself  the  power  of  exciting  in  my  mind  that  particular  feel- 
ing. It  does  all  very  well  in  popular  language,  where  no 
great  precision  is  wanted,  to  say  that  a  landscape  is  beau- 
tiful ;  or  the  expression  may  stand  where  men  know  how 
to  translate  it  into  common  sense  :  but  in  strictness  the 
feeling  only  can  be  in  my  mind  ; — the  causes  which  ex- 
cite that  feeling,  whatever  they  be,  are  in  the  landscape  ; 
all  the  effects  which  these  causes  can  produce,  are  in  me. 
Emotion  can  not  reside  upon  the  banks  of  rivers,  or  be 
green  with  the  grass,  flexible  with  the  boughs,  and  pearly 


166  LECTURE    XIII. 

with  the  dew  :  the  causes  of  this  particular  emotion  may 
be  in  matter ;  the  thing  itself  can  not. 

I  hear  some  men  contend  that  beauty,  in  strictness, 
only  means  personal  beauty,  or  beauty  of  landscape  ;  and 
that  when  applied  to  such  objects  as  an  ox,  or  an  inven- 
tion, as  in  a  steam-engine,  it  is  merely  a  metaphor. 
Now  a  metaphor  is  nothing  but  a  short  simile,  and  a 
simile  is  a  resemblance ;  and  why,  I  should  be  glad  to 
know,  is  one  feeling  of  the  mind,  by  general  consent,  said 
to  resemble  another  feeling  of  the  mind,  if,  in  fact,  there 
is  no  resemblance  between  them  ?  If  it  be  used  meta- 
phorically, it  is  the  clearest  proof  that  mankind  have  felt 
a  resemblance,  which  has  guided  them  in  the  application 
of  the  metaphor.  When  you  compare  an  object  of  sense, 
to  a  feeling  of  mind,  as  pity  to  a  balsam,  or  the  feeling 
of  anger  to  a  storm,  it  is  very  obvious  that  such  metaphors 
are  derived  from  those  faint  analogies  which  are  conve- 
nient enough  for  poetry,  but  utterly  unsuitable  to  phi- 
losophy. But  where  mankind,  or  great  numbers  of 
mankind,  have  agreed  to  call  two  mere  feelings  by  the 
same  name,  or,  as  other  persons  would  say,  to  use  one 
metaphorically  for  the  other,  it  is  a  pretty  clear  proof 
that  these  two  feelings  do  very  strongly  resemble  each 
other. 

First,  it  is  necessary  to  observe  that  the  term  beauty, 
to  whatever  object  it  is  applied,  is  applied  only  to  that 
which  is  very  superior  to  other  objects  of  the  same 
species.  Suppose  an  average  appearance  in  human 
countenances,  the  term  beauty  is  applied  only  where  that 
average  is  very  far  exceeded  ;  it  is  as  emphatical  on  one 
side  of  the  middle  point,  as  ugly  is  on  the  other, — both 
point  at  extremes.  So  in  poetry ;  a  beautiful  poem  is 
one  very  superior  to  the  common  merit  of  poetry :  a 
beautiful  invention  in  mechanics  is  one  in  which  much 
more  than  ordinary  ingenuity  is  displayed.  It  is  always 
a  term  of  the  superlative  degree,  implying  comparison, 
and  an  opinion  of  pre-eminence,  the  result  of  that  com- 
parison. 

I  shall  set  out,  after  these  premises,  with  reasserting 
my  opinion,  advanced  in  the  last  lecture,  that  beauty  is 
an  original  quality  of  matter :  not  that  all  matter  has  it, 


ON    THE    BEAUTIFUL.  167 

any  more  than  all  matter  has  hardness  ;  but  that  some 
matter  has  it,  as  some  matter  has  hardness.  As  I  said  a 
great  deal  about  it  in  my  last  lecture,  I  shall  not  ex- 
patiate further  on  this  subject  at  present,  but  assume  the 
principle,  and  reason  upon  it. 

Though  I  contend  that  there  is  an  original  beauty  of 
matter,  I  do  not  by  any  means  lay  much  stress  upon  it, 
or  compare  it  with  that  feeling  of  the  beautiful  which 
matter  excites  when  associated  with  some  agreeable 
quality  of  mind.  I  believe  a  clear  red,  passing  through 
a  beautiful  white  color,  is  of  itself  beautiful ;  but  it  is 
certainly  more  beautiful  wThen  it  becomes  the  sign  of 
health,  and  we  learn  habitually  to  consider  it  as  such. 
The  lively  green  that  the  herbage  assumes  after  rain,  is 
of  itself  agreeable  to  the  eye,  but  it  is  infinitely  more 
agreeable  when  that  color  becomes  the  sign  of  plenty,  of 
freshness,  of  liberty,  of  boundless  range,  and  innocent 
enjoyment,  and  all  the  pleasures  of  mind  we  associate 
with  the  idea  of  the  country. 

"  For  what  are  all 
The  forms  which  brute,  unconscious  matter  wears, — 
Greatness  of  bulk,  or  symmetry  of  parts  ? 
Not  reaching  to  the  heart,  soon  feeble  grows 
The  superficial  impulse ;  dull  their  charms, 
And  satiate  soon,  and  pall  the  languid  eye. 
Not  so  the  moral  species,  nor  the  powers 
Of  genius  and  design  ;  the  ambitious  mind 
There  sees  herself:  by  these  congenial  forms 
Touch'd  and  awaken'd,  with  intenser  act 
She  bends  each  nerve,  and  meditates  well  pleas'd 
Her  features  in  the  mirror.     For,  of  all 
The  inhabitants  of  earth,  to  man  alone 
Creative  Wisdom  gave  to  lift  his  eye 
To  Truth's  eternal  measures  ;  thence  to  frame 
The  sacred  laws  of  action  and  of  will, 
Discerning  justice  from  unequal  deeds, 
And  temperance  from  folly."* 

I  shall  begin  the  analysis  of  the  beautiful  with  music, 
a  subject  which  I  can  not  pass  over,  but  in  which  I  must 
beg  for  great  indulgence,  because  it  is  impossible  for  any 
one  to  be  more  completely  ignorant  of  that  art  than  I 
am.     Let  us  take  the  plainest  instance,  simple  melody,  or 

*  Akenside's  "  Pleasures  of  Imagination,"  line  526. 


168  LECTURE    XIII. 

an  air  sung  by  the  human  voice ;  why  do  we  call  this 
combination  of  sounds  beautiful,  and  what  is  the  cause 
of  the  striking  and  beautiful  emotion  we  derive  from  it  ? 
In  the  first  place,  because  each  single  sound  of  which  the 
air  is  composed  is  beautiful, — that  is,  it  is  beautiful  if  the 
voice  be  good ;  for  I  should  suppose  that  any  air  sung 
by  a  wretched  voice,  or  performed  upon  such  an  instru- 
ment as  the  bagpipe,  could  not  with  any  propriety  be 
denominated  beautiful ;  it  may  become  so  from  associa- 
tion, but  it  requires  the  aid  of  association  to  make  it  so. 
We  may  say  this  air,  sung  by  a  good  voice,  or  performed 
upon  a  good  instrument,  would  be  beautiful ;  but  this  is 
only  describing  what  other  sounds  would  be,  not  saying 
what  these  are.  Therefore,  a  simple  air,  sung  by  a 
good  voice,  is  beautiful  for  one  reason,  because  each 
particular  sound  of  which  it  is  composed  is  beautiful ; 
and  the  pleasure  is  of  course  immensely  increased,  from 
the  variation  and  contrast  of  these  sounds. 

"  And  ever,  against  eating  cares, 
Lap  me  in  soft  Lydian  airs, 

*  *  *  -55-  * 

In  notes,  with  many  a  winding  bout 
Of  linked  sweetness  long  draw  out, 
With  wanton  heed  and  giddy  cunning ; 
The  melting  voice  through  mazes  running, 
Untwisting  all  the  chains  that  tie 
The  hidden  soul  of  harmony." 

Melody  is  not  only  beautiful  from  its  variety  of  ori- 
ginally beautiful  sounds,  but  from  its  originally  beautiful 
combinations.  Some  two  notes  joined  together  are 
naturally  agreeable,  others  naturally  disagreeable :  at 
least,  it  is  the  commonly  received  opinion  that  concords 
are  pleasant,  discords  unpleasant,  from  the  constitution 
of  our  organs  of  hearing.  Whether  this  be  the  fact,  and 
whether  concords  here  are  concords  the  world  through, 
I  can  not  take  upon  me  to  determine ;  but,  however  this 
be,  the  fact  is  indisputable,  that  very  unpracticed  ears  are 
delighted  with  some  combinations  of  sounds,  and  that 
this  pleasure  must  be  considered  as  another  additional 
cause  of  the  beauty  of  music.  Rhythm,  or  number  in 
music,  is  a  copious  source  of  variety  and  uniformity ; 


ON    THE    BEAUTIFUL.  169 

every  piece  of  regular  music  is,  as  every  one  knows, 
supposed  to  be  divided  into  small  portions,  separated  in 
writing  by  a  cross  line,  called  a  bar,  which,  whether  they 
contain  more  or  fewer  sounds,  are  all  equal  in  respect  of 
time.  In  this  way  the  rhythm  is  a  source  of  uniformity, 
which  pleases  by  suggesting  the  agreeable  ideas  of 
regularity,  and,  still  more,  by  rendering  the  music  in- 
telligible. But  the  principal  cause  of  the  beauty  of 
music  is,  that  it  can  be  translated  into  feelings  of  the 
mind.  Let  a  simple  air  be  sung  by  a  pleasing  voice,  not 
in  words,  but  in  articulate  sounds, — as  it  is  quick,  or  as 
it  is  solemn,  as  it  is  high  or  low,  we  immediately  connect 
it  with  some  feeling  ;  because  experience  has  taught  us 
that  some  of  our  passions  are  expressed  in  a  solemn 
measure  and  low  tone,  others  in  quick  measure  and  with 
an  elevation  of  voice.  If  any  one  were  for  the  first  time 
to  hear  the  tune  of  "Farewell  to  Lochaber,"  without 
words,  there  could,  I  should  think,  be  little  doubt  but 
that  he  would  associate  it  with  some  calm,  melancholy 
emotion  :  nor  could  any  person  imagine  that  such  a  tune 
as  that  of  "Dainty  Davy,"  was  intended  to  express 
profound  and  inconsolable  grief.  In  these  airs,  we 
immediately  associate  with  them  some  feeling  of  mind, 
and  from  this  association  their  beauty  is  principally 
derived.  "  The  objects,  therefore,  which  produce  such 
sensations,  though  in  themselves  not  the  immediate  signs 
of  such  interesting  or  affecting  qualities,  yet,  in  conse- 
quence of  this  resemblance,  become  gradually  expressive 
of  them ;  and,  if  not  always,  yet  at  those  times,  at  least, 
when  we  are  under  the  dominion  of  any  emotion,  serve 
to  bring  to  our  minds  the  images  of  all  those  affecting  or 
interesting  qualities,  which  we  have  been  accustomed  to 
suppose  they  resemble.  How  extensive  this  source  of 
association  is,  may  easily  be  observed  in  the  extent  of 
such  kinds  of  figurative  expression  in  every  language."* 
Nothing  can  be  more  just  and  philosophical  than  these 
opinions  of  Mr.  Alison  and  Dr.  Beattie.  Music  itself 
can  express  only  classes  of  feelings ;  it  can  express  only 
melancholy,  not  any  particular  instance  or  action  of 
melancholy.     The  tune  of  "  Lochaber,"  which  I  have 

*  Alison,  p.  185. 


170  LECTURE    XIII. 

before  alluded  to,  expresses  the  pathetic  in  general ;  lan- 
guage only  can  tell  us  that  it  is  that  particular  instance 
of  the  pathetic,  where  a  poor  soldier  takes  leave  of  his 
native  land,  Lochaber,  and  his  wife  Jean,  with  a  feeling 
that  he  shall  see  them  no  more  : — 

'•  Borne  on  rough  seas  to  a  far  distant  shore, 
I'll  maybe  return  to  Lochaber  no  more !" 

Therefore,  the  principal  cause  of  the  beauty  of  melody 
is,  that  as  we  hear  the  air,  we  not  only  translate  it  into 
human  feelings,  but,  remembering  the  words  connected 
with  it,  we  summon  up  the  particular  exemplification  of 
that  feeling  ;  we  think  of  the  poor  soldier  who  is  never 
to  see  again  his  wife  and  his  children  in  Lochaber ;  we 
love  his  affection  for  that  spot  where  he  has  spent  many 
blithesome  days,  and  we  are  touched  with  his  misery. 
Whenever  we  hear  an  air  to  which  we  know  no  words, 
it  can  inspire  only  general  emotion,  and  the  comparative 
effect  is  feeble  ;  when  poetry  applies  the  general  emotion 
to  particular  instances,  musical  expression  has  attained 
its  maximum  of  effect.  It  is  said  that  the  "  Pastorale  "  of 
Corelli  was  intended  for  an  imitation  of  the  song  of 
angels  hovering  above  the  fields  of  Bethlehem,  and 
gradually  soaring  up  to  heaven ;  it  is  impossible,  how- 
ever, that  the  music  itself  can  convey  any  such  expres- 
sion,— it  can  convey  only  the  feelings  of  solemnity,  of 
rapture,  of  enthusiasm  ;  imagination  must  do  the  rest. 
If  another  name  were  given  to  this  piece  of  music,  and 
it  were  supposed  to  relate  to  a  much  less  awful  event, 
its  effects,  though  still  powerful,  would  be  very  con- 
siderably diminished. 

Such  appear  to  me  to  be  the  causes  of  that  feeling  of 
the  beautiful  excited  by  simple  melody.  The  more 
complicated  beauty  of  harmony  is  easiest  explained  by 
denying  that  it  has  any  beauty  ;  the  music  often  praised 
by  professors  and  connoisseurs  has  often  no  other  merit 
than  that  of  difficulty  overcome,  which  excites  the  feel- 
ing of  wonder,  not  of  beauty  :  the  mass  of  hearers,  who 
can  not  estimate  the  difficulty,  can  not  participated  the 
admiration  ;  they  can  derive  no  other  gratification  from  it 
than  the  mere  animal  pleasure  of  beautiful  sounds,  which, 


ON    THE    BEAUTIFUL.  171 

when  they  are  devoid  of  moral  expression,  soon  fatigue  and 
disgust :  and  the  parts  of  a  long  concerto  which  give  uni- 
versal pleasure  are  precisely  those  which  do  excite  some 
feeling,  which  express  either  what  is  gay,  or  the  strong  pas- 
sions, or  a  pleasing  melancholy.  See  the  effects  of  a  long 
piece  of  music  at  a  public  concert.  The  orchestra  are 
breathless  with  attention,  jumping  into  major  and  minor 
keys,  executing  figures,  and  fiddling  with  the  most  ecstatic 
precision.  In  the  midst  of  all  this  wonderful  science,  the 
audience  are  gaping,  lolling,  talking,  staring  about,  and 
half  devoured  with  ennui.  On  a  sudden  there  springs  up 
a  lively  little  air,  expressive  of  some  natural  feeling,  though 
in  point  of  science  not  worth  a  halfpenny  :  the  audience 
all  spring  up,  every  head  nods,  every  foot  beats  time,  and 
every  heart  also  ;  an  universal  smile  breaks  out  on  every 
face  ;  the  carriage  is  not  ordered  ;  and  every  one  agrees 
that  music  is  the  most  delightful  rational  entertainment 
that  the  human  mind  can  possibly  enjoy.  In  the  same 
manner  the  astonishing  execution  of  some  great  singers 
has  in  it  very  little  of  the  beautiful ;  it  is  mere  difficulty 
overcome,  like  rope-dancing  and  tumbling ;  and  such 
difficulties  overcome  (as  I  have  before  said)  do  not  ex- 
cite the  feeling  of  the  beautiful,  but  of  the  wonderful. 

Independently  of  these  causes  of  pleasure  in  music,  it 
may  be  aided  by  innumerable  associations.  It  may  be 
national  music  ;  it  may  record  some  great  exploit  of  my 
countrymen,  as  the  "  Belleisle  March ;"  it  may  be  the 
"  Ranz  des  Vaches ;"  and  innumerable  other  causes  may 
aid  its  effects.  In  very  loud  music,  as  the  organ,  or  in 
the  assemblage  of  many  instruments,  an  immediate  phy- 
sical effect  is  produced  upon  the  body,  independent  of 
any  feeling  of  the  mind.  I  have  seen  one  or  two  people 
so  nervous,  that  they  could  not  hear  an  organ  without 
crying  ;  and  every  body  remembers  the  innumerable  in- ' 
stances  of  fainting  and  weeping  at  the  commemoration; 
in  the  Abbey,  merely  from  the  effect  produced  upon  the 
nerves  by  sound.  So  that,  to  sum  up  all  the  causes  I 
have  alledged  of  the  beautiful  in  music,  we  may  say  it' 
proceeds  from  an  original  power  in  sound  to  create  that 
feeling,  either  in  its  simplest  state,  or  in  those  instances 
of  its  combinations  which  we  call  concords;  that  that- 


172  LECTURE    XIII. 

feeling  of  beautiful  may  be  aided  by  our  admiration  of 
the  skill  displayed  in  harmony,  as  one  agreeable  feeling 
always  aids  and  increases  another; — but  that  the  prin- 
cipal cause  of  beauty  in  music,  is  the  facility  with  which 
it  is  associated  with  feeling,  from  its  resemblance  to  the 
tones  in  which  feelings  are  expressed ;  and  that  these 
feelings  are  made  specific  by  the  ministration  of  poetry, 
from  the  combination  of  which  with  music,  great  part  of 
the  power  of  the  latter  is  derived. 

Passing  from  the  beauty  judged  of  by  the  ear,  to  that 
which  falls  under  the  province  of  sight,  I  can  not  (as  I 
have  before  said)  agree  with  those  who  would  consider 
all  colors  as  originally  equally  pleasing  to  the  eye.  I 
admit,  association  can  make  any  color  agreeable,  or  any 
disagreeable :  but  I  contend,  that,  antecedent  to  all 
association,  the  eye  delights  in  one  color  more  than 
another ;  that  it  passes  over  some  with  indifference,  and 
receives  exquisite  delight  from  others.  Fling  among 
some  common  pebbles  a  Bristol  stone,  or  some  bits  of 
colored  glass  ;  present  them  to  a  child  of  two  years  old, 
which  will  he  seize  upon  first  ?  When  Captain  Cook 
first  broached  his  cargo  of  beads  among  the  savages, 
and  bought  a  large  hog  for  a  couple  of  beads,  which 
were  not  worth  the  decimal  of  a  farthing, — what  asso- 
ciation can  it  be  imagined  the  savages  had  formed  with 
the  various  colors  which  proved  so  alluring  to  their 
eyes?  The  association,  philosophers  would  tell  us,  that 
they  liked  blue,  because  it  was  the  color  of  the  sky ; 
white,  because  it  was  the  color  of  the  day.  But  why 
did  they  like  faint  yellow  ?  why  orange  color  ?  why 
deep  purple  ?  and  why  would  they  have  rejected  un- 
glazed  beads,  as  dull  as  this  green  baize,  or  of  a  color 
as  insipid  as  that  of  a  common  stone  ?  It  seems  so  very 
strange  to  me,  that  men  should  doubt  any  more  of  the 
gluttony  of  the  eye  than  of  the  gluttony  of  the  mouth. 
As  the  palate  feasts  upon  savory  and  sweet,  the  ear 
feasts  upon  melody,  and  the  eye  gorges  upon  light  and 
color  till  it  aches  with  pleasure. 

With  respect  to  the  beauty  of  forms,  I  am  much  more 
inclined  to  agree  that  there  is  no  original  beauty  of 
form  ;  but  that  it  entirely  depends  on  association.     For 


ON    THE    BEAUTIFUL.  173 

the  superior  pleasure  I  receive  from  bright  and  trans- 
parent colors,  to  that  of  which  I  am  conscious  in  looking 
at  those  which  are  dull  and  opaque,  I  can  give  no  reason. 
It  appears  to  me  an  original  fact,  that  the  perception  of 
this  color  should  be  followed  by  the  emotion  of  beauty. 
But  I  can  not  say  the  same  of  forms  :  I  certainly  prefer 
one  form  to  another,  but  then  I  think  I  can  always  give 
some  reason  for  the  preference. 

We  must  divide  forms  into  those  which  are  simple, 
and  those  which  are  compounded  of  many  other  forms ; 
and  it  appears  to  me  the  following  causes  may  be  stated 
of  that  feeling  of  the  beautiful,  excited  by  the  forms  of 
objects. 

Any  form  which  excites  the  idea  of  smoothness,  or 
faint  resistance  to  the  touch,  is  beautiful ;  except  where 
such  notion  of  smoothness  is  accidentally  united  with 
any  unpleasing  notion. 

"  On  the  whole,"  says  Mr.  Burke,  "  if  such  parts  in 
human  bodies  as  are  found  proportioned,  were  likewise 
constantly  found  beautiful, — as  they  certainly  are  not ; 
or  if  they  were  so  situated,  as  that  a  pleasure  might  flow 
from  the  comparison, — which  they  seldom  are  ;  or  if  any 
assignable  proportions  were  found,  either  in  plants  or 
animals,  which  were  always  attended  with  beauty, — 
which  never  was  the  case ;  or  if,  where  parts  were  well 
adapted  to  their  purposes,  they  were  constantly  beau- 
tiful, and  when  no  use  appeared,  there  was  no  beauty, — 
which  is  contrary  to  all  experience  ;  we  might  conclude 
that  beauty  consisted  in  proportion  or  utility.  But 
since,  in  all  respects,  the  case  is  quite  otherwise,  we 
may  be  satisfied  that  beauty  does  not  depend  on  these, 
let  it  owe  its  origin  to  what  else  it  will."* 

The  form  of  a  solid  globe  of  glass  would  be  much  more 
beautiful  than  if  its  surface  were  broken  into  inequalities, 
because  it  would  be  much  more  agreeable  to  the  touch. 
Is,  then,  the  smoothness  of  trees  cut  into  a  round  form, 
more  beautiful  than  their  natural  irregularity  and  rough- 
ness ?  No,  certainly  not ;  it  gives  an  idea  of  restraint 
and  injury  to  the  tree,  which  is  painful.  Is  the  smooth- 
ness of  a  swelled  face  beautiful  ?     No,  it  gives  the  idea 

*  Burke,  p.  230. 


174  LECTURE    XIII. 

of  disease.  Here  are  disagreeable  associations  connected 
with  the  appearance  of  smoothness ;  but  any  single  ob- 
ject, considered  by  itself,  is  considered  as  more  beautiful 
when  smooth  than  when  rough,  except  where  (as  I  have 
said  before)  the  roughness  is  the  sign  of  a  pleasant,  or 
the  smoothness  of  an  unpleasant,  quality. 

The  forms  of  regular  figures  are  agreeable,  from  the 
relations  observed  between  the  parts.  The  mind  takes 
some  pleasure  in  noticing  that  one  side  of  a  square  is 
precisely  like  the  other ;  that  one  angle  is  exactly  of  the 
same  magnitude  as  its  diagonal.  All  forms  which  are 
regular  are  much  more  distinctly  comprehended,  and 
easily  retained,  than  any  irregular  form ;  because  the 
accurate  observation  of  one  or  two  parts  often  leads  to 
the  knowledge  of  the  whole.  Thus,  from  a  side,  and 
solid  angle,  we  j\ave  the  whole  regular  solid ;  the  meas- 
ure of  one  side  gives  the  whole  square,  one  radius  the 
whole  circle,  two  diameters  an  oval,  one  ordinate  and 
abscissa  the  parabola ;  and  so  on  in  more  complex  figures, 
which  have  any  regularity,  they  can  easily  be  determined 
and  known  in  every  part  from  a  few  data :  whereas  it 
might  cost  a  man  half  his  life  to  remember  the  form  of 
the  first  pebble  he  picked  up  in  the  streets,  so  as  to  re- 
produce it  at  pleasure.  Is,  then,  fhat  form  always  agree- 
able in  single  objects  which  is  regular  ?  Is  a  square 
nose  agreeable  ?  or  a  head  tapering  off  to  a  cone  beau- 
tiful ?  No ;  they  are  both  monstrous.  Is  a  square  tree 
upon  espaliers  more  beautiful  than  a  tree  left  to  itself? 
No ;  it  gives  you  an  idea  of  restraint  and  confinement. 
Does,  then,  a  square  house  give  you  an  idea  of  restraint 
and  confinement  ?  No,  by  no  means ;  you  do  not  ex- 
pect wildness  in  walls,  and  luxuriancy  in  buttresses  :  no 
man  is  so  fond  of  the  picturesque  that  he  raises  part  of 
his  drawing-room  floor  into  hillocks,  and  depresses  the 
rest  into  glens  and  valleys :  the  approach  from  the  door 
to  the  table  is  not  by  any  spiral  and  circuitous  progress, 
but  the  servant  enters,  and,  w7ith  the  most  unpicturesque 
straightness,  deposits  what  he  has  to  leave.  The  regu- 
larity of  the  figures,  instead  of  the  notion  of  restraint, 
conveys  the  notion  of  comfort  in  the  use,  and  of  skill 
and  economy  in  the  building.     Walls  have  no  natural 


ON    THE    BEAUTIFUL.  175 

disposition  to  assume  one  form  more  than  another  :  trees 
have. 

Those  forms  are  beautiful  which  are  associated  with 
agreeable  ends ;  as  strength,  and  health,  and  activity. 
Strength,  however,  is  a  quality  in  animals,  which  may 
be  so  easily  turned  to  our  destruction,  that  it  requires  to 
be  joined  with  the  notion  of  utility,  to  legitimate  the 
usage  of  the  word  beautiful.  The  form  of  a  rhinoceros 
indicates  that  he  is  as  strong  as  a  village,  yet  no  one 
calls  him  beautiful.  The  form  of  an  ox,  or  a  cart-horse, 
which  indicates  strength  supereminently  above  other 
animals  of  the  same  sort,  is  called  beautiful — not  by  him 
whose  mind  has  not  been  impressed  with  a  strong  asso- 
ciation between  the  form  and  the  useful  quality ;  but  as 
breeders,  and  men  curious  in  cattle,  do  not  scruple  to 
apply  to  forms  indicative  of  useful  qualities  the  appella- 
tion of  beauty.  However,  I  will  discuss  this  more  at 
length,  when  I  come  to  consider  the  question  syntheti- 
cally, and  to  show  (what  I  believe  to  be  true),  that  any 
surprising  adaptation  of  means  to  ends,  immediately 
excites  the  feeling  of  the  beautiful,  except  where  asso- 
ciation intervenes  to  prevent  it. 

Forms  which  excite  the  notion  of  swiftness,  are  com- 
monly beautiful ;  or  of  a  mixture  of  swiftness  and 
strength.  The  greater  part  of  our  associations  respect- 
ing beautiful  forms,  are  taken  from  our  own  species. 
We  find  magnitude  and  strength  of  form,  united  with 
good  qualities,  which  excite  respect  rather  than  affection ; 
and  with  bad  ones,  which  excite  fear  rather  than  pity : 
with  courage,  perseverance,  and  intrepidity ;  with  vio- 
lence, harshness,  and  oppression.  Experience,  on  the 
contrary,  teaches  us  that  delicacy  of  form  is  united  with 
gentleness  and  benevolence,  which  are  the  objects  of 
affection  ;  and  wtth  indecision,  timidity,  and  fluctuation, 
which  are  the  objects  of  compassion.  This,  if  I  mistake 
not,  is  the  origin  of  that  association  in  favor  of  delicacy 
of  form,  and  of  the  application  to  it  of  the  term  beau- 
tiful: and  of  course,  when  the  association  is  once  estab- 
lished, it  is  extended  to  those  inanimate  objects  from 
whence  it  would  never  have  originated ;  for  I  can  not 
conceive  that  the  delicacy  of  a  flower,  by  which  is  prin- 


176  LECTURE    XIII. 

cipally  meant  its  fragility,  the  facility  with  which  any 
exterior  violence  can  destroy  it,  can  of  itself  be  any 
cause  of  our  deeming  it  beautiful, — unless  our  experience 
of  moral  beings  had  previously  taught  us  to  associate 
with  the  emblem  of  outward  weakness,  a  thousand  beau- 
tiful feelings  of  pity,  gratitude,  kindness,  and  other  the 
best  and  fairest  emotions  of  the  mind. 


LECTURE    XIV. 

ON  THE  BEAUTIFUL.— PART  IL 

"  All  the  objects  which  are  exhibited  to  our  view  by 
Nature,"  says  Sir  Joshua  Reynolds,  "  upon  close  exam- 
ination will  be  found  to  have  their  blemishes  and  defects. 
The  most  beautiful  forms  have  something  about  them  like 
weakness,  minuteness,  or  imperfection.  But  it  is  not  every 
eye  that  perceives  these  blemishes ;  it  must  be  an  eye 
long  used  to  the  contemplation  and  comparison  of  these 
forms,  and  which,  by  a  long  habit  of  observing  what  any 
set  of  objects  of  the  same  kind  have  in  common,  has  ac- 
quired the  power  of  discerning  what  each  wants  in  par- 
ticular. This  long,  laborious  comparison,  should  be  the 
first  study  of  the  painter  who  aims  at  the  greatest  style. 
By  this  means  he  acquires  a  just  idea  of  beautiful  forms  ; 
he  corrects  Nature  by  herself,  her  imperfect  state  by  her 
more  perfect.  His  eye  being  enabled  to  distinguish  the 
accidental  deficiencies,  excrescences,  and  deformities  of 
things,  from  their  general  figures,  he  makes  out  an  ab- 
stract idea  of  their  forms,  more  perfect  than  any  one 
original :  and,  what  may  seem  a  paradox,  he  learns  to 
design  naturally,  by  drawing  his  figures  unlike  to  any 
one  object.  This  idea  of  the  perfect  state  of  nature, 
which  the  artist  calls  the  ideal  beauty,  is  the  great  lead- 
ing principle  by  which  works  of  genius  are  conducted. 
By  this,  Phidias  acquired  his  fame ;  he  wrought  upon  a 
sober  principle  what  has  so  much  excited  the  enthusiasm 
of  the  world  ;  and  by  this  method  you  who  have  cour- 
rage  to  tread  the  same  path,  may  acquire  equal  reputa- 
tion. 

'  This  is  the  idea  which  has  acquired,  and  which 
seems  to  have  a  right  to,  the  epithet  of  divine ;  as  it  may 


178  LECTURE    XIV. 

be  said  to  preside,  like  a  supreme  judge,  over  all  the 
productions  of  nature,  appearing  to  be  possessed  of  the 
will  and  intention  of  the  Creator,  as  far  as  they  regard 
the  external  form  of  living  beings.  When  a  man  once 
possesses  this  idea  in  its  perfection,  there  is  no  danger 
but  that  he  will  be  sufficiently  warmed  by  it  himself,  and 
be  able  to  warm  and  ravish  every  one  else. 

"  Thus  it  is  from  a  reiterated  experience,  and  a  close 
comparison  of  the  objects  of  nature,  that  an  artist  be- 
comes possessed  of  the  idea  of  that  central  form,  if  I  may 
so  express  it,  from  which  every  deviation  is  deformity. 
But  the  investigation  of  this  form,  I  grant,  is  painful ; 
and  I  know  but  of  one  method  of  shortening  the  road  ; — 
that  is,  by  a  careful  study  of  the  works  of  the  ancient 
sculptors,  who,  being  indefatigable  in  the  school  of  nature, 
have  left  models  of  that  perfect  form  behind  them,  which 
an  artist  would  prefer  as  supremely  beautiful,  who  had 
spent  his  whole  life  in  that  single  contemplation.  But 
if  industry  carried  them  thus  far,  may  not  you  also  hope 
for  the  same  reward  from  the  same  labor  ?  We  have  the 
same  school  opened  to  us  that  was  opened  to  them,  for 
Nature  denies  her  instructions  to  none  who  desire  to 
become  her  pupils." 

Every  body  must  perceive  that  in  this  opinion  of  Sir 
Joshua's  there  is  a  great  deal  of  ingenuity  as  well  as 
justice  :  and,  in  order  to  ascertain  the  effect  of  custom 
on  the  beauty  of  forms,  I  begin  with  stating,  that  where 
the  customary  figure  of  animals  is  very  materially  de- 
viated from,  there  we  have  always  a  sense  of  deformity 
and  disgust.  I  carefully  avoid  mentioning  those  parts 
of  animals  where  a  deviation  from  the  customary  figure 
would  imply  disease  and  weakness,  and  prevent  the 
animal  from  acting  as  Nature  intended  it  should.  A 
crooked  spine  gives  us  the  very  opposite  notions  to  the 
beautiful,  not  merely  because  it  is  contrary  to  the  cus- 
tomary figure  of  the  animal,  but  because  experience  has 
taught  us  to  associate  it  with  the  notions  of  disease  and 
imbecility  of  body.  But,  in  order  to  show  the  effect  of 
custom  upon  the  beautiful,  take  a  chin,  which  is  of  no 
use  at  all.  A  chin  ending  in  a  very  sharp  angle  would  be 
perfect  deformitv.     A  man  whose  chin  terminated  in  a 


ON    THE    BEAUTIFUL.  179 

point,  would  be  under  the  immediate  necessity  of  retiring 
to  America  ;  he  would  be  a  perfect  horror  :  and  for  no 
other  reason  that  I  can  possibly  see,  but  that  Nature  has 
shown  no  intention  of  making  such  a  chin, — we  have 
never  been  accustomed  to  see  such  chins.  Nature,  we 
are  quite  certain,  did  not  intend  that  the  chin  should  be 
brought  to  a  perfect  angle,  nor  that  it  should  be  per- 
fectly circular,  and  therefore  either  of  these  extremes 
is  a  deformity.  Now,  something  considerably  removed 
from  the  perfect  circle  and  the  perfect  angle,  is  the  chin 
we  have  been  most  accustomed  to  see,  and  which,  for 
that  reason,  we  most  approve  of.  Within  certain  limits, 
one  chin  is  as  common  as  another,  and  as  handsome  as 
another:  there  are  degrees  of  tendency  to  the  circle  and 
the  angle,  which  we  can  at  once  pronounce  to  be  ugly  ; 
but  there  is  a  middle  region  of  some  extent,  where  all 
approximations  to  these  two  figures  are  equally  common 
and  equally  handsome.  The  only  objection  to  this  doc- 
trine of  the  central  form,  is,  that  it  has  been  pushed  too 
far ;  it  has  been  urged  that  there  is  an  exact  middle 
point  between  the  two  extremes,  which  is  the  perfection 
of  beauty,  and  to  which  nature  is  perpetually  tending. 
This  attempt  at  such  very  precise  and  minute  discovery 
in  the  subject  of  beauty,  appears  to  me  to  give  a  fanciful 
air  to  the  whole  doctrine,  and  to  do  injustice  to  the  real 
truth  it  contains.  In  the  construction  of  every  form, 
Nature  takes  a  certain  range :  to  ascertain  the  ordinary 
limits  of  her  range,  is  practical,  rational,  and  useful  ;  to 
aim  at  greater  precision,  and  to  speak  as  if  you  knew 
the  very  prototype  at  which  Nature  was  always  aiming, 
and  from  which  she  was  always  deviating  on  one  side  or 
the  other,  is  to  cheat  yourself  with  your  own  metaphors, 
and  to  substitute  illusion  for  plain  fact.  Within  certain 
limits,  every  tendency  to  the  circle  or  the  angle,  are 
equally  removed  from  deformity,  because  they  are 
equally  common,  and  they  are  (all  other  things  being 
equal)*  equally  beautiful.  Of  course  I  mean  this  only  to 
apply  where  the  expression  is  equal,  and  where  mere 
historical  association  does  not  interfere  to  disturb  the 
justice  of  the  conclusions.  The  Grecian  face  is  not 
common  :   I  hardlv  know  what  a  Grecian  face  is,  but  I 


180  LECTURE    XIV. 

am  told  by  those  who  have  studied  these  matters,  that 
there  are  some  parts  of  it, — the  length,  1  fancy,  between 
the  nose  and  the  lip, — which  are  extremely  uncommon, 
and  very  rarely  to  be  met  with  in  Europe.  This  is  very 
probable  ;  but  it  is  mere  association.  If  the  elegant  arts 
had  been  transmitted  to  us  from  the  Chinese  instead  of 
the  Greeks,  that  singular  piece  of  deformity,  a  Chinese 
nose,  would  very  probably  have  been  held  in  high  es- 
timation. Now  what  I  have  said  about  forms  amounts 
to  this  : — Forms  are  beautiful  which  are  associated  with 
the  notion  of  smoothness  of  touch,  which  are  regular, 
which  give  the  notion  of  delicacy,  or  recall  any  of  a 
particular  class  of  feelings  of  mind.  What  that  par- 
ticular class  is,  I  shall  attempt  hereafter  to  specify. 

So  far  I  have  attempted  to  show,  that  the  contrary 
to  that,  which  is  the  customary  form  of  any  species,  is 
deformity.  But  is  the  customary  form  itself  beautiful  ? 
does  it  create  the  opposite  to  disgust  ?  I  am  strongly 
inclined  to  think  it  does  not ;  that  the  mere  common- 
ness of  any  form  does  not  give  the  notion  of  beauty  ; — 
it  prevents  the  notion  of  deformity,  but  does  not  give 
the  notion  of  beauty,  for  beauty  itself  is  always  un- 
common. 

Mr.  Burke  says,  "  If  I  am  not  mistaken,  a  great  deal 
of  the  prejudice  in  favor  of  proportion  has  arisen,  not  so 
much  from  the  observations  of  any  certain  measures 
found  in  beautiful  bodies,  as  from  a  wrong  idea  of  the 
relation  which  deformity  bears  to  beauty,  to  which  it 
has  been  considered  as  the  opposite :  on  this  principle  it 
was  concluded,  that  where  the  causes  of  deformity  were 
removed,  beauty  must  naturally  and  necessarily  be  in- 
troduced. This,  I  believe,  is  a  mistake ;  for  deformity 
is  opposed,  not  to  beauty,  but  to  the  complete  common 
form.  If  one  of  the  legs  of  a  man  be  found  shorter  than 
the  other,  the  man  is  deformed,  because  there  is  some- 
thing wanting  to  complete  the  whole  idea  we  form  of  a 
man :  and  this  has  the  same  effect  in  natural  faults,  as 
maiming  and  mutilation  produce  from  accidents.  So  if 
the  back  be  humped,  the  man  is  deformed,  because  his 
back  has  an  unusual  figure,  and  what  carries  with  it  the 
idea  of  some  misfortune  :  so  if  a  man's  neck  be  consider-: 


ON    THE    BEAUTIFUL.  181 

ably  longer  or  shorter  than  usual,  we  say  he  is  deformed 
in  that  part,  because  men  are  not  commonly  made  in 
that  manner.  But  surely  every  hour's  experience  may 
convince  us,  that  a  man  may  have  his  legs  of  an  equal 
length,  and  resembling  each  other  in  all  respects,  and  his 
neck  of  a  just  size,  and  his  back  quite  straight,  without 
having  at  the  same  time  the  least  perceivable  beauty. 
Indeed,  beauty  is  so  far  from  belonging  to  the  idea  of 
custom,  that,  in  reality,  what  affects  us  in  that  manner, 
is  extremely  rare  and  uncommon.  The  beautiful  strikes 
us  as  much  by  its  novelty,  as  the  deformed  itself."* 

Custom  has  precisely  the  same  effect  upon  our  ideas 
of  relative  magnitude  or  proportion,  as  on  our  ideas  of 
figure.  There  is  a  certain  breadth  of  the  mouth,  in  pro- 
portion to  the  breadth  of  the  whole  face,  which  is  mon- 
strous ;  another  opposite  proportion  equally  monstrous. 
There  is  a  certain  middle  limit,  within  which  all  propor- 
tions are  equally  removed  from  deformity.  Mr.  Burke 
contends,  and  in  my  humble  opinion  with  great  success, 
that  proportion  is  never  of  itself  the  original  cause  of 
beauty.  It  is  the  cause  of  beauty,  as  it  is  an  indication 
of  strength  and  utility  in  buildings,  of  swiftness  in  ani- 
mals, of  any  feeling  morally  beautiful ;  and  it  is  agree- 
able, as  it  is  customary  in  animals,  or  the  proof  of  the 
absence  of  deformity ;  but  no  proportion  of  itself,  and 
without  one  of  these  reasons,  ever  pleases.  No  man 
would  contend  Nature  ever  intended  that  6  to  2,  or  9  to 
14,  are  perfection :  that  the  moment  a  monkey  could  be 
discovered  and  brought  to  light,  the  length  of  whose  ear 
was  precisely  the  cube  root  of  the  length  of  his  tail,  that 
he  ought  to  be  set  up  as  a  model  of  perfect  conformation 
to  the  whole  simious  tribe.  Certain  proportions  are 
beautiful,  as  they  indicate  skill,  swiftness,  convenience, 
strength,  or  historical  association  ;  and  then  philosophers 
copy  these  proportions,  and  determine  that  they  must  be 
originally  and  abstractedly  beautiful, — applying  that  to 
the  sign,  which  is  only  true  of  the  thing  indicated  by  the 
sign. 

Custom  has  also  the  same  effect  upon  magnitudes. 
Tall  and  short  mean  only  unusual.     The  excellence  of 

*  Burke,  p,  221. 


182  LECTURE    XIV. 

stature  would  lie  within  those  limits  where  one  height 
was  equally  common  with  another,  were  it  not  for  the 
idea  of  utility  which  intervenes  and  overcomes  the  slight 
deviation  from  that  which  is  most  common.  For  in- 
stance :  I  believe  there  are  many  more  Englishmen 
between  5  feet  6  and  5  feet  9,  than  there  are  between 
5  feet  9  and  6  feet;  but  I  believe  Mr.  Flaxman,  in 
making  a  statue  of  a  beautiful  young  man,  would  rather 
choose  between  the  last  proportion  than  the  first, — 
because,  though  the  deviation  from  custom  would  be 
greater,  it  would  be  compensated  for  by  the  superior 
notions  of  strength  and  energy  it  would  convey.  But 
every  sculptor  would  undoubtedly  take  the  commonest 
proportion  between  the  nose  and  the  chin  he  could  dis- 
cover, because  no  superior  pleasure  would  be  gained  by 
deviating  from  that  proportion.  Mr.  Burke  has  a  notion 
that  things,  to  be  beautiful,  must  be  small, — that  small- 
ness  is  one  cause  of  beauty.  This,  I  confess,  I  can  not 
agree  to.  Little  is  a  term  of  affection,  but  not  a  term 
of  beauty :  where  the  stature  is  small,  we  are  rather  in- 
clined to  use  some  less  powerful  word  than  beautiful,  as 
pretty.  There  is  a  certain  feeling  of  admiration,  a  faint 
tinge  of  awe,  connected  with  personal  beauty,  which,  if 
not  diminished,  is  certainly  not  assisted,  by  smallness. 
If  smallness  were  one  cause  of  beauty,  we  should  have 
remarked  it  in  the  great  mass  of  amatory  poetry,  which 
has  been  accumulating  since  the  beginning  of  the  world  : 
the  lover  would  have  told  his  mistress,  from  time  imme- 
morial, that  she  was  so  short  that  she  could  walk  under 
his  arm ;  that  she  weighed  less  by  20  or  30  pounds  than 
any  other  beauty  in  the  neighborhood  ;  that  he  solemnly 
believed  her  only  to  be  five  feet ;  and  he  would  have 
diminished  her  down  by  elegant  adulation,  to  think  as 
lowly  of  herself  as  possible.  I  think  if  the  poetical  gen- 
tlemen who  attend  the  Institution  will  recollect,  they 
will  rather  find,  when  they  speak  of  stature  at  all,  that 
their  adulation  runs  in  an  opposite  channel ;  and  that, 
though  they  may  speak  of  grand  stately  figures,  they 
never  allude  to  those  remarkable  only  for  weighing  very 
little,  and  being  shorter  and  thinner  than  the  average  of 
the  human  race. 


ON    THE    BEAUTIFUL.  183 

Having  now  gone  through  the  various  effects  of  mag- 
nitude, proportion,  and  figure,  on  beauty,  I  think  I  have 
said  enough  to  explain  the  causes  of  the  most  remarkable 
sort  of  beauty,  the  beauty  of  the  human  face.  I  shall 
first  take  a  very  beautiful  female  face,  entirely  without 
expression, — why  do  we  call  that  face  beautiful  ?  Take 
twenty  other  faces,  all  devoid  of  expression  ;  why  do  we 
denominate  the  one  beautiful,  the  others  not  ?  The 
beautiful  face  is  a  most  uncommon  assemblage  of  com- 
mon figures,  common  proportions,  common  magnitudes, 
and  common  relations.  Take  all  the  other  twenty, — the 
first  has  features  too  large,  that  is,  larger  than  is  common; 
the  second  violates  proportion,  that  is,  the  customary 
proportion  between  the  length  of  the  forehead  and  the 
length  of  the  chin  is  violated ;  in  a  third,  the  figure  of 
the  mouth  is  extraordinary,  it  is  not  the  average  custom- 
ary figure  of  mouths.  In  the  beautiful  face  alone,  there 
is  not  a  single  deviation  from  custom :  the  figure  of 
every  feature  is  the  average  figure  ;  the  magnitude  the 
average  magnitude  ;  the  proportion  each  part  bears  to 
the  other,  the  customary  proportion.  The  only  thing 
which  is  not  average,  and  not  customary,  is  the  extra- 
ordinary assemblage  of  averages  and  common  standards 
in  one  single  face :  that  whereas  all  human  faces  deviate 
from  the  custom  of  Nature  in  some  of  their  magnitudes, 
figures,  and  proportions,  she  has  assembled,  in  this  single 
face,  one  and  all  her  models  for  every  separate  feature ; 
and  indulged  the  eye  of  man,  unused  to  excellence,  wTith 
the  spectacle  of  that  which  is  without  spot,  blemish,  or 
objection.  Now  mind  what  we  have  to  add  to  this  bare 
assemblage  of  proportions,  figures,  and  magnitudes  :  in 
the  first  place  we  add  to  it  smoothness,  a  great  cause  of 
beauty ;  then  beautiful  colors,  which  are  also  the  signs 
of  health,  youth,  and  delicacy  of  feeling.  It  shall  also 
express  goodness,  compassion,  gentleness,  an  obliging 
spirit,  and  a  mild  wisdom ;  and,  putting  all  these  power- 
ful causes  together,  I  think  I  have  said  enough  to  explain 
the  effects  which  personal  beauty  produces  on  the  des- 
tinies of  man. 

"  These,  when  the  Spartan  queen  approach'd  the  tower, 
In  sprret  own'd  resistless  beauty's  power  : 


184  LECTURE    XIV. 

They  cried,  '  No  wonder  such  celestial  charms 
'  For  nine  long  years  had  set  the  world  in  arms ; 
What  winning  graces,  what  majestic  mien  ! 
She  looks  a  goddess,  and  she  moves  a  queen !' " 

These  are  the  causes  which  made  all  the  old  senators  of 
Troy  exclaim,  at  the  sight  of  Helen,  that  the  Trojans 
and  the  well-booted  Greeks  were  by  no  means  to  blame 
for  having  endured  such  griefs  so  long  a  time  for  such  a 
beautiful  lady. 

All  the  beauty  of  motion  I  should  suspect  to  be  the  re- 
sult of  association.  Motion  is  either  quick  or  slow,  di- 
rect or  circuitous,  uniform  or  irregular.  Sometimes 
quick  motion  is  not  beautiful,  from  the  association  it  ex- 
cites of  violent  resistance  to  the  touch  ;  in  other  in- 
stances there  is  a  want  of  variety,  both  in  direct  motion 
and  in  slow  motion,  which  is  tiresome.  All  motion 
which  gives  us  the  notion  of  ease,  is  beautiful ;  of  re- 
straint, is  painful.  All  movements  in  human  creatures, 
which  express  any  feeling  of  mind  which  itself  would  be 
called  beautiful,  is  as  beautiful  as  the  thing  it  signifies. 
The  motion  of  a  rivulet  is  beautiful  from  its  variety ;  of 
a  balloon,  from  its  ease  ;  and  the  apparent  absence  of 
effort  of  a  sailing  kite,  from  the  same  reason  ;  of  a  man 
of  war  moving  slowly,  for  the  same  reason. 

Grace  is  either  the  beauty  of  motion,  or  the  beauty  of 
posture.  Graceful  motion  is  motion  without  difficulty 
or  embarrassment ;  or  that  which,  from  experience,  we 
know  to  be  connected  with  ingenious  modesty,  a  desire 
to  increase  the  happiness  of  others,  or  any  beautiful 
moral  feeling.  A  person  walks  up  a  long  room,  ob- 
served by  a  great  number  of  individuals,  and  pays  his  re- 
spects as  a  gentleman  ought  to  do ; — why  is  he  grace- 
ful ?  Because  every  movement  of  his  body  inspires  you 
with  some  pleasing  feeling ;  he  has  the  free  and  unem- 
barrassed use  of  his  limbs ;  his  motions  do  not  indicate 
forward  boldness,  or  irrational  timidity  ; — the  outward 
signs  perpetually  indicate  agreeable  qualities.  The  same 
explanation  applies  to  grace  of  posture  and  attitude  : 
that  is  a  graceful  attitude  which  indicates  an  absence  of 
restraint;  and  facility,  which  is  the  sign  of  agreeable 
qualities  of  mind  :  apart  from  such  indications,  one  atti- 


ON    THE    BEAUTIFUL.  185 

tude  I  should  conceive  to  be  quite  as  graceful  as  an- 
other. 

Mr.  Burke  has  a  long  dissertation  respecting  the  effect 
of  utility  or  fitness,  as  a  cause  of  beauty  :  he  determines 
that  it  is  not  a  cause  of  beauty,  but  I  can  not  think  this 
decision  conformable  with  matter  of  fact.  I  took  occa- 
sion to  observe,  in  my  last  lecture,  that  the  term  beauty 
implied  comparison,  and  that  it  was  a  term  of  the  super- 
lative degree.  Now  certainly,  mere  utility,  unaccom- 
panied by  surprise,  does  never  excite  the  feeling  of 
beauty.  There  is  nothing  more  useful  than  a  plow,  an 
axe,  or  a  hammer,  but  nobody  calls  them  beautiful ;  but 
whenever  utility  is  promoted  by  a  surprising  adaptation 
of  means  to  ends,  there  the  feeling  of  the  beautiful  is  al- 
ways excited,  unless  counteracted  by  some  accidental 
association.  "  Why,"  says  Mr.  Burke,  "  upon  this  prin- 
ciple of  utility,  the  wedge-like  snout  of  a  sow,  with  its 
tough  cartilage  at  the  end,  the  little  sunk  eyes,  and  the 
whole  make  of  the  head,  so  well  adapted  to  its  offices  of 
digging  and  rooting,  would  be  extremely  beautiful. " 
The  great  bag  hanging  to  the  bill  of  a  pelican,  a  thing 
highly  useful  to  this  animal,  would  be  likewise  as  beau- 
tiful in  our  eyes.  In  the  first  place,  the  pig  is  an  animal 
degraded  by  all  sorts  of  dirty  associations,  and  therefore 
the  instance  is  rather  unfair:  the  bag  of  the  pelican 
raises  up,  also,  some  association  of  disease ;  and  this  is 
the  notion  both  the  one  and  the  other  excites  in  common 
minds.  But  the  anatomist,  who  has  examined  the  struc- 
ture of  these  parts  carefully,  and  knows  how  they  are 
composed,  how  moved,  how  connected  with  the  rest  of 
the  body,  is  immediately  struck  with  the  feeling  of  the 
beautiful,  and  does  not  hesitate  to  denominate  both  the 
one  and  the  other  a  beautiful  provision  of  nature.  In  the 
same  manner  all  the  instances  Mr.  Burke  quotes  are  easy 
to  be  answered, — porcupines  and  hedgehogs  are  well 
provided  by  nature  with  means  of  defense;  but  any  thing 
associated  with  the  idea  of  pain,  wounds,  and  contention, 
is  disagreeable.  For  the  same  reason,  all  the  inventions 
of  war,  bombs,  mines,  cannon, — though  they  are  useful, 
and  excite  surprise  if  they  have  not  been  often  seen, — 
are  never  considered  as  beautiful,  from  the  dreadful  ideas 


186  LECTURE    XIV. 

with  which  they  are  connected.  But  I  think  it  would 
be  difficult  to  find  any  thing  useful,  done  by  a  surprising 
adaptation  of  means  to  end,  which  would  not  be  called 
beautiful.  How  beautiful  is  the  adaptation  of  the  con- 
densible  nature  of  steam,  to  overcome  the  greatest  ob- 
stacles in  mechanics  !  or  that  adaptation  of  the  elastic 
power  of  air,  to  produce  a  continued  stream  in  the  en- 
gines employed  for  fires  !  What  is  more  useful  than  a 
saucepan  ?  nothing. — but  the  adaptation  of  means  to  the 
end  excites  no  surprise.  But  what  if  a  man  were  to  in- 
vent a  new  and  better  kind  of  snuffers,  effecting  his  ob- 
ject by  a  very  striking  method, — would  that  be  beautiful  ? 
Probably  not ;  the  end  proposed  is  so  trifling,  that  we 
should  rather  feel  a  sort  of  contempt  for  the  man  who 
had  lavished  his  talent  upon  such  an  object ;  though  it 
is  very  possible  that  the  great  ingenuity  of  the  means 
may  sanctify  an  object  otherwise  unimportant.  Argand's 
lamp  certainly  deserves  the  appellation  of  a  beautiful  in- 
vention. Go  to  the  Duke  of  Bedford's  piggery  at  Wo- 
burn,  and  you  will  see  a  breed  of  pigs  with  legs  so  short, 
that  their  stomachs  trail  upon  the  ground  :  a  breed  of 
animals  entombed  in  their  own  fat,  overwhelmed  with 
prosperity,  success,  and  farina.  No  animal  could  pos- 
sibly be  so  disgusting  if  it  were  not  useful ;  but  a  breed- 
er, who  has  accurately  attended  to  the  small  quantity  of 
food  it  requires  to  swell  this  pig  out  to  such  extraordinary 
dimensions, — the  astonishing  genius  it  displays  for  obes- 
ity,— and  the  laudable  propensity  of  the  flesh  to  desert 
the  cheap  regions  of  the  body,  and  to  agglomerate  on 
those  parts  which  are  worth  ninepence  a  pound, — such 
an  observer  of  its  utility  does  not  scruple  to  call  these 
otherwise  hideous  quadrupeds,  a  beautiful  race  of  pigs. 
It  is  asked  if  perfection  is  the  cause  of  beauty  ?  Before 
the  question  is  asked,  it  may  be  as  well  to  determine 
what  is  meant  by  perfection  ?  It  often  means  the  super- 
lative of  any  thing.  Perfect  strength  must  mean  the 
greatest  strength  that  that  species,  or  any  other  species, 
is  accustomed  to  exhibit.  Such  strength  would  give  no 
notion  of  beauty,  nor  would  perfect  swiftness  ;  but  rather 
of  the  sublime  :  less  perfect  swiftness  would  be  much 
naore  likely  to  inspire  us  with  the  notion  of  the  beautiful. 


ON    THE    BEAUTIFUL.  187 

What  notion  of  beauty  could  perfect  justice  impart,  or 
perfect  courage  ? 

Perfect  symmetry  is  the  symmetry  which  is  the  most 
beautiful,  which  I  have  before  referred  to  custom ;  I  see 
no  reason  whatever  for  considering  perfection  as  a  cause 
of  beauty. 

Variety  is  another  very  strong  cause  of  beauty ;  and 
this  is  the  reason  why  we  are  so  fond  of  natural  objects, 
and  is  the  cause  of  the  great  bustle  made  about  nature. 
I  have  no  doubt  but  that  (all  other  things  being  equal) 
a  regular  figure  is  more  beautiful  than  an  irregular  fig- 
ure, and  that  the  principal  reason  why  we  are  like  the 
strange  figures  presented  to  us  in  a  forest,  among  the 
boughs  of  the  trees,  or  in  a  field  by  the  irregular  lay  of 
the  ground,  is  the  perpetual  gratification  of  this  passion 
for  variety  which  it  affords.  I  went  for  the  first  time  in 
my  life,  some  years  ago,  to  stay  at  a  very  grand  and 
beautiful  place  in  the  country,  where  the  grounds  are 
said  to  be  laid  out  with  consummate  taste.  For  the  first 
three  or  four  days  I  was  perfectly  enchanted ;  it  seemed 
something  so  much  better  than  nature,  that  I  really  be- 
gan to  wish  the  earth  had  been  laid  out  according  to  the 
latest  principles  of  improvement,  and  that  the  whole  face 
of  nature  wore  a  little  more  the  appearance  of  a  park. 
In  three  days'  time  I  was  tired  to  death ;  a  thistle,  a  net- 
tle, a  heap  of  dead  bushes,  any  thing  that  wore  the  ap- 
pearance of  accident  and  want  of  intention,  was  quite  a 
relief.  I  used  to  escape  from  the  made  grounds,  and 
walk  upon  an  adjacent  goose-common,  where  the  cart- 
ruts,  gravel-pits,  bumps,  irregularities,  coarse  ungentle- 
manlike  grass,  and  all  the  varieties  produced  by  neglect, 
were  a  thousand  times  more  gratifying  than  the  mo- 
notony of  beauties  the  result  of  design,  and  crowded  into 
narrow  confines  with  a  luxuriance  and  abundance  utter- 
ly unknown  to  nature. 

When  we  speak  of  a  beautiful  landscape,  we  include 
under  that  term  a  vast  variety  of  sensations, — the  beauty 
of  colors,  of  smells,  and  of  sounds.  It  would  be  difficult 
to  look  at  milch  cattle  without  thinking  of  the  fragrance 
of  their  milk, — or  at  hay  in  the  haymaking  season, 
without  enjoying  in  imagination  its  delightful  smell. 


188  LECTURE    XIV. 

"As  one  who  long  in  populous  city  pent, 
Where  houses  thick  and  sewers  annoy  the  air, 
Forth  issuing  on  a  summer's  morn  to  breathe 
Among  the  pleasant  villages  and  farms 
Adjoin'd,  from  each  tiling  met  conceives  delight ; 
The  smell  of  grain,  or  tedded  grass,  or  kine, 
Or  dairy,  each  rural  sight,  each  rural  sound ; 
If  chance,  with  nymph-like  step,  fair  virgin  pass, 
What  pleasing  seem'd,  for  her  now  pleases  more  ; 
She  most,  and  in  her  look  sums  all  delight." 

To  the  beauty  of  sounds,  smells,  and  colors,  is  to  be 
added  the  beauty  of  variety,  the  notion  of  liberty,  of 
health,  of  innocence,  the  association  of  a  childhood  passed 
in  the  country,  of  the  happy  days  every  man  has  spent 
there, — all  that  Virgil  has  written,  and  Claude  painted, 
of  the  country, — the  beautiful  exertions  of  the  highest 
minds  to  make  that  fairer  which  God  has  made  so  fair, 
— all  these  feelings  go  to  make  up  the  beauty  of  land- 
scape, and  give  birth,  by  their  united  force,  to  that  calm 
pleasure  which  has  been  felt  in  every  age  by  those  who 
have  raised  their  minds  above  the  struggles  of  passion, 
and  the  emotions  of  sense.  Then  every  man,  in  looking 
at  a  landscape,  paints  to  himself  that  scene  of  imaginary 
felicity  he  likes  best;  a  merchant  looks  at  an  asylum 
from  the  toils  of  business ;  a  mother  marks  out  a  healthy 
and  sheltered  spot  for  her  children  ;  an  improver  plants  ; 
a  poet  feels  ;  an  old  man  builds  himself  a  retired  cottage, 
and  gradually  wears  away  his  remaining  days  amid  the 
health  and  quiet  of  the  fields.  A  landscape  is  every  thing 
to  every  body;  it  is  one  person's  property  as  well  as 
another's ;  it  gratifies  every  man's  desire,  and  fills  up 
every  man's  heart. 

The  beauties  of  architecture  I  should  conceive  to  be 
referable  to  the  beauties  of  utility,  of  regularity,  of  del- 
icacy, and  of  association.  Why  is  the  west  window  of 
the  cathedral  at  York  beautiful?  Let  us  endeavor  to 
follow  what  passes  in  the  mind,  in  looking  at  this  cele- 
brated piece  of  architecture.  It  is,  in  the  first  place, 
Gothic,  and  there  is  an  association  in  favor  of  Gothic 
architecture ;  we  have  heard  it  is  beautiful,  and  are  pre- 
pared to  admire  it.  The  stone-work  is  very  light,  and 
therefore  does  not  obstruct   the  passage  of  the   sun's 


OIV    THE    BEAUTIFUL.  189 

rays ;  nor  does  it  give  us  the  idea  of  labor  uselessly 
employed,  but,  on  the  contrary,  the  idea  of  delicacy, 
which  I  have  before  stated  to  be  a  cause  of  beauty.  It 
is  full  of  regular  figures,  neatly  cut,  which  it  is  not  easy 
to  make  of  stone.  The  whole  is  a  regular  figure,  and 
bears  a  just  proportion  to  the  size  of  the  building.  As 
to  the  different  orders  of  architecture,  it  is  quite  impossi- 
ble to  assent  to  the  observations  of  those  who  would 
contend  that  their  proportions  are  absolutely  beautiful, — 
that  nature  has  made  these  proportions  originally  a 
cause  of  that  feeling,  independent  of  any  utility  to  which 
those  proportions  may  be  subservient,  and  of  any  asso- 
ciation with  which  they  may  be  connected.  The 
common  sense  of  the  business  appears  to  me  to  be 
this  : — I  see  a  pillar ;  I  conceive  it,  as  erected,  to  support 
something.  I  know  the  nature  of  stone,  and  its  strength. 
If  the  proportions  are  so  managed  that  I  conceive  the 
thing  to  be  supported,  will  fall,  it  gives  me  the  idea  of 
weakness  and  frailty,  which  is  unpleasant :  if  they  are 
such  as  to  indicate  a  much  greater  degree  of  strength 
than  is  wanted,  then  I  am  equally  disgusted.  Between 
these  two  extremes,  all  proportions  are  naturally  of  equal 
beauty ;  the  rest  is  done  by  Pericles,  Miltiades,  the 
battle  of  Thermopylae,  and  all  the  military  and  literary 
glory  of  the  Greeks.  There  is  an  excellent  chapter  in 
Mr.  Alison's  book,  upon  the  orders  of  architecture,  in 
which  he,  to  my  mind,  sets  this  matter  in  the  clearest 
point  of  view,  and  shows  that  in  this  instance,  as  well  as 
in  all  others,  the  pleasure  arising  from  the  proportions  of 
the  orders,  is  to  be  referred  to  the  utility  of  those  propor- 
tions, or  to  the  associations  which  they  excite. 

"  The  proportions  of  these  orders,"  says  Mr.  Alison, 
"  it  is  to  be  remembered,  are  distinct  subjects  of  beauty 
from  the  ornaments  with  which  they  are  embellished, 
from  the  magnificence  with  which  they  are  executed, 
from  the  purposes  of  elegance  they  are  intended  to  serve, 
or  the  scenes  of  grandeur  they  are  destined  to  adorn. 
It  is  in  such  scenes,  however,  and  with  such  additions, 
that  we  are  accustomed  to  observe  them  :  and  while  we 
feel  the  effect  of  all  these  accidental  associations,  we  are 
seldom  willing  to  examine  what  are  the  causes  of  the 


190  LECTURE    XIV. 

complex  emotions  we  feel ;  and  readily  attribute  to  the 
nature  of  the  architecture  itself,  the  whole  pleasure 
which  we  enjoy. 

"  But,  beside  these,  there  are  other  associations  we 
have  with  these  forms,  that  still  more  powerfully  serve 
to  command  our  admiration,  for  they  are  the  Grecian 
orders :  they  derive  their  origin  from  those  times,  and 
were  the  ornaments  of  those  countries,  which  are  most 
hallowed  in  our  imaginations  ;  and  it  is  difficult  for  us  to 
see  them,  even  in  their  modern  copies,  without  feeling 
them  operate  upon  our  minds  as  relics  of  those  polished 
nations  where  they  first  arose,  and  of  that  greater  people 
by  whom  they  were  afterward  borrowed. 

"  While  this  species  of  architecture  is  attended  with  so 
many  and  so  pleasing  associations,  it  is  difficult,  even  for 
a  man  of  reflection,  to  distinguish  between  the  different 
sources  of  his  emotion  ;  or,  in  the  moments  in  which  this 
delight  is  felt,  to  ascertain  what  is  the  exact  portion  of 
his  pleasure  which  is  to  be  attributed  to  these  propor- 
tions alone.  And  two  different  causes  combine  to  lead 
us  to  attribute  to  the  style  of  architecture  itself,  the 
beauty  which  arises  from  many  other  associations. 

"In  the  first  place,  while  it  is  under  our  eye,  this 
architecture  itself  is  the  great  object  of  our  regard,  and 
the  central  object  of  all  these  associations.  It  is  the 
material  sign,  in  fact,  of  all  the  various  affecting  qualities 
which  are  connected  with  it ;  and  it  disposes  us  in  this, 
as  in  every  other  case,  to  attribute  to  the  sign,  the  effect 
which  is  produced  by  the  qualities  signified. 

"  When  we  reflect,  upon  the  other  hand,  in  our  calmer 
moments,  upon  the  source  of  our  emotion,  another 
motive  arises  to  induce  us  to  consider  these  proportions 
as  the  sole,  or  the  principal,  cause  of  our  pleasure  ;  for 
these  proportions  are  the  only  qualities  of  the  object 
which  are  perfectly  or  accurately  ascertained.  They 
have  received  the  assent  of  all  ages  since  their  discovery  ; 
they  are  the  acknowledged  objects  of  beauty ;  and, 
having  thus  got  possession  of  one  undoubted  principle, 
our  natural  love  of  system  induces  us  to  ascribe  the 
whole  of  the  effect  to  this  principle  alone,  and  easily 


OX    THE    BEAUTIFUL.  191 

satisfies  our  minds,  by  saving  us  the  trouble  of  a  long  and 
tedious  investigation. 

"  That  this  cause  has  had  its  full  effect  in  this  case, 
will,  I  believe,  appear  very  evident  to  those  who  attend 
to  the  enthusiasm  with  which,  in  general,  the  writers  on 
architecture  speak  of  the  beauty  of  proportion,  and 
compare  it  with  the  common  sentiments  of  men,  upon 
the  subject  of  this  beauty.  Both  these  causes  conspire 
to  mislead  our  judgment  in  this  point,  and  to  induce  us 
to  attribute  to  one  quality,  in  such  objects,  that  beauty 
which,  in  truth,  results  from  many  united  qualities."* 

In  my  next  lecture  I  shall  conclude  this  subject  of 
the  beautiful,  and  sum  up  all  that  I  have  said  upon  it. 
If  any  man  feel  himself  inclined  to  think  that  I  have 
pushed  this  subject  of  the  beautiful  too  far,  and  that  its 
importance  does  not  merit  such  long  discussion,  I  would 
desire  him  to  reflect  upon  the  immense  effect  which  it 
produces  on  human  life.  What  are  half  the  crimes  in 
the  world  committed  for  ?  What  brings  into  action  the 
best  virtues  ?  The  desire  of  possessing.  Of  possessing 
what  ? — not  mere  money,  but  every  species  of  the  beau- 
tiful which  money  can  purchase.  A  man  lies  hid  in  a 
little,  dirty,  smoky  room  for  twenty  years  of  his  life,  and 
sums  up  as  many  columns  of  figures  as  would  reach 
round  half  the  earth,  if  they  were  laid  at  length ; — he 
gets  rich  ;  what  does  he  do  with  his  riches  ?  He  buys  a 
large,  well-proportioned  house  :  in  the  arrangement  of 
his  furniture,  he  gratifies  himself  with  all  the  beauty 
which  splendid  colors,  regular  figures,  and  smooth 
surfaces,  can  convey ;  he  has  the  beauties  of  variety  and 
association  in  his  grounds ;  the  cup  out  of  which  he 
drinks  his  tea  is  adorned  with  beautiful  figures ;  the 
chair  in  which  he  sits  is  covered  with  smooth,  shining 
leather ;  his  table-cloth  is  of  the  most  beautiful  damask  ; 
mirrors  reflect  the  lights  from  every  quarter  of  the  room  ; 
pictures  of  the  best  masters  feed  his  eye  with  all  the 
beauties  of  imitation.  A  million  of  human  creatures  are 
employed  in  this  country  in  ministering  to  this  feeling  of 
the  beautiful.  It  is  only  a  barbarous,  ignorant  people 
that  can  ever  be  occupied  by  the  necessaries  of  life  alone, 

*  Alison,  pp.  367-369. 


192  LECTURE    XIV. 

If  to  eat,  and  to  drink,  and  to  be  warm,  were  the  only- 
passions  of  our  minds,  we  should  all  be  what  the  lowest 
of  us  all  are  at  this  day.  The  love  of  the  beautiful  calls 
man  to  fresh  exertions,  and  awakens  him  to  a  more 
noble  life  ;  and  the  glory  of  it  is,  that  as  painters  imitate, 
and  poets  sing,  and  statuaries  carve,  and  architects  rear 
up  the  gorgeous  trophies  of  their  skill, — as  every  thing 
becomes  beautiful,  and  orderly,  and  magnificent, — the 
activity  of  the  mind  rises  to  still  greater,  and  to  better 
objects.  The  principles  of  justice  are  sought  out;  the 
powers  of  the  ruler,  and  the  rights  of  the  subject,  are 
fixed ;  man  advances  to  the  enjoyment  of  rational 
liberty,  and  to  the  establishment  of  those  great  moral 
laws,  which  God  has  written  in  our  hearts,  to  regulate 
the  destinies  of  the  world. 


LECTURE    XV. 

ON  THE  BEAUTIFUL— PART  IIL 

I  wish,  for  the  completion  of  the  subject  on  which  I 
have  been  engaged,  to  consider  what  causes  produce  the 
feeling  of  the  beautiful  in  poetry.  I  must  observe  here, 
as  I  observed  before,  that  there  is  a  lax  and  general 
usage  of  the  word  beautiful,  to  which  I  am  not  now 
referring.  We  might  say  of  Milton's  Paradise  Lost, 
that  it  is  a  beautiful  poem,  though  its  characteristic  is 
rather  grandeur  and  sublimity,  than  beauty.  It  is  a 
general  term,  standing  for  every  species  of  excellence ; 
but  I  am  speaking  now  of  that  which  is  properly  beau- 
tiful, as  distinguished  from  what  is  sublime  or  excellent 
in  any  other  kind. 

The  first  reason,  then,  why  poetry  is  beautiful,  is,  be- 
cause it  describes  natural  objects,  or  moral  feelings, 
which  are  themselves  beautiful.  For  an  example,  I  will 
read  to  you  a  beautiful  sonnet  of  Dr.  Leyden's  upon  the 
Sabbath  morning,  which  has  never  been  printed  : — 

"  With  silent  awe  I  hail  the  sacred  morn, 

"Which  slowly  wakes  while  all  the  fields  are  still ; 
A  soothing  calm  on  every  breeze  is  borne, 

A  graver  murmur  gurgles  from  the  rill, 

And  Echo  answers  softer  from  the  hill, 
And  softer  sings  the  linnet  from  the  thorn, 

The  skylark  warbles  in  a  tone  less  shrill. 
Hail,  light  serene  !  hail,  sacred  Sabbath  morn  ! 
The  rooks  float  silent  by,  in  airy  drove  ; 

The  sun,  a  placid  yellow  luster  shows ; 
The  gales,  that  lately  sigh'd  along  the  grove, 

Have  hush'd  their  downy  wings  in  dead  repose ; 
The  hov'ring  rack  of  clouds  forget  to  move  : — 

So  smiled  the  day  when  the  first  morn  arose  !" 


194  LECTURE    XV. 

Now,  there  is  not  a  single  image  introduced  into  this 
very  beautiful  sonnet,  which  is  not  of  itself  beautiful ; 
the  soothing  calm  of  the  breeze,  the  noise  of  the  rill,  the 
song  of  the  linnet,  the  hovering  rack  of  clouds,  and  the 
airy  drove  of  rooks  floating  by,  are  all  objects  that  would 
be  beautiful  in  nature,  and  of  course  are  so  in  poetry. 
The  notion  that  the  w^hole  appearance  of  the  world  is 
more  calm  and  composed  on  the  Sabbath,  and  that  its 
sanctity  is  felt  in  the  whole  creation,  is  unusually  beau- 
tiful and  poetical.  There  is  a  pleasure  in  imitation, — 
this  is  exactly  a  picture  of  what  a  beautiful  placid  morn- 
ing is,  and  we  are  delighted  to  see  it  so  well  repre- 
sented. 

There  is  also  a  certain  degree  of  pleasure  from  the 
measure  of  the  poetry, — from  the  recurrence  of  certain 
cadences  at  certain  intervals  ; — this  makes  the  distinc- 
tion between  the  language  of  prose  and  poetry.  Now, 
in  which  of  these  two  passages  are  the  sounds  most 
agreeably  arranged : — "  The  master  saw  the  madness 
rising,  took  notice  of  his  glowing  cheeks  and  his  ardent 
eyes,  and,  while  he  defied  heaven  and  earth,  changed  his 
own  hand,  and  checked  the  pride  of  Alexander.  He 
chose  a  mournful  song,  in  order  to  infuse  into  him  soft 
pity ;  he  sung  of  Darius,  a  very  great  and  good  man," — 
and  so  on. 

"  The  master  saw  the  madness  rise ; 
His  glowing  cheeks,  his  ardent  eyes ; 
And,  while  he  Heaven  and  Earth  defied, 
Changed  his  hand,  and  check'd  his  pride. 

He  chose  a  mournful  muse 

Soft  pity  to  infuse  : 
He  sung  Darius  great  and  good, 

By  too  severe  a  fate, 
Fallen,  fallen,  fallen,  fallen, 
Fallen  from  his  high  estate, 

And  welt'ring  in  his  blood ; 
Deserted,  at  his  utmost  need, 
By  those  his  former  bounty  fed  : 
On  the  bare  earth  exposed  he  lies, 
With  not  a  friend  to  close  his  eyes. 
With  downcast  looks  the  joyless  victor  sate, 

Revolving  in  his  alter'd  soul 

The  various  turns  of  Chance  below  ; 

And,  now  and  then,  a  sigh  he  stole ; 
And  tears  began  to  flow." 


ON    THE    BEAUTIFUL.  195 

Now,  the  ideas  are  precisely  the  same  in  the  two  ar- 
rangements of  sounds ;  but  I  think  no  one  can  doubt  of 
the  superior  pleasure  of  that  order  of  sounds,  in  which 
there  appears  to  be  arrangement  and  design. 

Part  of  the  pleasure  proceeds  also  from  the  rhymes. 
Children  will  go  on  for  ten  minutes  together,  repeating 
a  rhyme,  merely  delighted  with  the  sameness  of  the 
sound  :  so  will  mad  people.  I  have  seen  laborers  and 
common  people  in  the  country,  quite  delighted  with  the 
accidental  discovery  of  a  rhyme  ;  it  has  appeared  to  have 
very  much  the  same  effect  upon  them  as  wit.  I  mention 
these  things  very  cursorily,  because  they  are  connected 
with  my  subject  of  the  beautiful,  though  they  are  facts 
of  great  curiosity,  and  which  may  lead  to  very  interest- 
ing speculations,  which  I  have  no  doubt  they  will  do,  in 
the  very  able  hands  in  which  they  are  at  present  placed 
by  the  managers  of  this  Institution. 

To  these  causes  may  be  added  a  strong  admiration  of 
the  skill  of  the  poet,  whether  exemplified  in  his  selection 
of  words,  or  his  choice  of  the  most  striking  objects  and 
incidents  in  description.  These,  I  apprehend  to  be  the 
causes  which  excite  the  feeling  of  the  beautiful  in  poetry, 
where  the  subject  itself  is  beautiful.  But  what  is  the 
reason  that  poetry  is  called  beautiful,  where  the  subject 
is  quite  the  reverse  ?  There  might  be  a  very  beautiful 
description  of  the  flat,  dreary  fens  of  Holland,  which  are 
themselves  as  far  from  being  beautiful  as  any  natural 
scenery  can  be.  Now,  here  is  a  passage  out  of  Thom- 
son, in  which  there  is  not  a  single  image  naturally  beau- 
tiful, and  yet  the  whole  passage  certainly  must  be  so 
called  : — 

"  When  o'er  this  world,  by  equinoctial  rains 
Flooded  immense,  looks  out  the  joyless  sun, 
And  draws  the  copious  stream ;  from  swampy  fens, 
Where  putrefaction  into  life  ferments, 
And  breathes  destructive  myriads  ;  or  from  woods, 
Impenetrable  shades,  recesses  foul, 
In  vapors  rank  and  blue  corruption  wrapt, 
Whose  gloomy  horrors  yet  no  desperate  foot, 
Has  ever  dared  to  pierce — then,  wasteful,  forth 
Walks  the  dire  power  of  pestilent  disease. 
A  thousand  hideous  fiends  her  course  attend, 
Sick  nature  blasting1,  and  to  heartless  woe, 


196  LECTURE    XV. 

And  feeble  desolation,  casting  down 
The  towering  hopes  and  all  the  pride  of  man. 
Such  as,  of  late,  at  Cartagena  quench'd 
The  British  fire.     You,  gallant  Vernon,  saw 
The  miserable  scene ;  you,  pitying,  saw 
To  infant  weakness  sunk  the  warrior's  arm ; 
Saw  the  deep  racking  pang,  the  ghastly  form. 
The  lip  pale  quivering,  and  the  beamless  eye 
No  more  with  ardor  bright ;  you  heard  the  groans 
Of  agoni  ing  ships,  from  shore  to  shore ; 
Heard,  nightly  plung'd  amid  the  sullen  waves, 
The  frequent  corse — while  on  each  other  fix'd, 
In  sad  presage,  the  blank  assistants  seem'd 
Silent,  to  ask,  whom  fate  would  next  demand."* 

The  question  is,  why  is  such  an  extraordinary  assem- 
blage of  unbeautiful  images  beautiful  ?  In  the  first 
place,  the  mention  or  description  of  putrefaction,  stag- 
nation of  air,  and  consequent  plague,  is  of  course  not  so 
disgusting  or  horrible  as  the  reality  :  the  obstacles  to 
the  feeling  of  the  beautiful  are  immensely  overcome,  in 
comparison  to  that  degree  of  force  which  they  would 
possess  if  these  things  were  seen  and  felt  instead  of 
read.  Then  there  is  a  certain  pleasure  of  security  in 
reading  the  description  of  danger,  or  of  comfort  in 
reading  the  description  of  disgust.  I  think  we  should 
all  be  conscious  of  the  feeling  of  security,  in  reading 
Thomson's  celebrated  description  of  a  snow-storm,  and 
of  the  father  perishing  while  his  children  are  looking 
out  for  him  and  demanding  their  sire.  Add  to  all  this, 
the  same  causes  of  the  beautiful  which  exist  in  beautiful 
subjects, — the  meter,  the  cadence,  choice  of  language, 
and  admiration  of  skill, — and  their  united  force  will  ex- 
plain the  reason  why  poetry  is  beautiful,  when  the  sub- 
ject, in  nature,  would  be  much  otherwise ;  though,  I 
suppose  (all  other  things  being  equal),  the  more  beauti- 
ful the  subject,  the  more  beautiful  the  poem. 

This  also  is  to  be  said,  that  some  passions,  though 
painful  when  very  strong,  are  agreeable  when  weaker. 
It  would  be  horrible  to  be  staying  at  a  house  on  a  snowy 
night,  where  there  was  every  reason  to  believe  that  the 
husband  would  perish  on  his  road  home  over  a  bleak 
common ;  and  nothing  could  be  more  dreadful  than  to 

*  Summer,  ver.  1026-1051. 


ON    THE    BEAUTIFUL.  197 

see  the  agony  of  the  mother  and  the  children.  But 
poetical  snow  is  so  much  less  dangerous  than  real  snow, 
and  poetical  wives  and  children  always  excite  our  com- 
passion so  much  less  than  wives  and  children  devoid  of 
all  rhyme  and  meter,  and  composed  of  prosaic  flesh  and 
blood,  that  the  degree  of  compassion  excited  is  rather 
pleasing  than  painful. 

The  beautiful  in  painting  seems  to  be  quite  referable 
to  the  same  causes, — the  pleasures  of  imitation,  the 
reflex  pleasure  of  natural  beauty,  the  pleasure  of  skill ; 
and  where  the  subject  itself  is  not  beautiful,  there,  re- 
flected horror  is  less  intense  than  real  or  original  horror, 
and  a  certain  pleasure  is  enjoyed  from  the  consciousness 
that  we  are  exempt  from  the  evil  we  behold. 

Throughout  the  whole  of  my  lectures  on  the  beauti- 
ful, in  my  explanation  of  the  beauty  of  exterior  objects, 
I  have  thought  it  sufficient  to  trace  their  connection 
with  feelings  of  the  mind,  which  have  received  that  ap- 
pellation. It  therefore  becomes  necessary  I  should  state 
what  those  feelings  are.  To  class  feelings  with  the  same 
precision  with  which  it  is  possible  to  arrange  earths,  and 
stone,  and  minerals,  is  a  degree  of  order  in  these  mat- 
ters, which  the  most  ardent  metaphysician,  unassisted  by 
lunacy,  will  of  course  never  attempt  to  attain.  The 
similarity  of  feelings  is  not  a  truth  which  it  is  possible 
to  prove ;  it  must  be  left  to  every  man's  inward  reflec- 
tion to  determine,  and  to  his  candor  to  confess ;  and, 
after  all,  opinions  upon  such  subjects  must  always  fall 
far  short  of  that  clearness  of  conviction,  which  is  easily 
obtained  upon  physical  subjects. 

The  emotions  of  the  mind  may  be  divided  into  pain- 
ful and  pleasing,  and  the  pleasing  into  calm  emotions  and 
tumultuous  emotions ;  and  the  beautiful,  I  believe,  com- 
prehends almost  every  calm  emotion  of  pleasure.  I  am 
using  old  and  well-established  phrases,  when  I  speak  of 
calm  and  tumultuous  emotions,  and  (which  is  rather  a 
bold  thing  to  say  in  the  language  adopted  for  the  phe- 
nomena of  mind)  I  really  believe  they  have  some  mean- 
ing. The  names  have  evidently  been  derived  from  the 
outward  bodily  signs  of  the  two  kinds  of  emotion ;  and  no 
one  can  doubt,  but  that  what  passes  in  the  mind  on  such 


198  LECTURE    XV. 

occasions,  is  just  as  different  as  what  appears  in  the  face 
and  actions,  which  are  the  indications  of  the  mind.  The 
joy  of  a  washerwoman  who  has  just  got  the  £20,000 
prize  in  the  lottery,  and  the  joy  of  a  sensible,  worthy 
man,  who  has  just  succeeded  in  rescuing  a  family  from 
distress,  are  both  feelings  of  pleasure  ;  but  while  the  one 
is  dancing  in  frantic  rapture  round  her  tubs,  the  signs 
by  which  the  other  indicates  his  satisfaction  are  char- 
acteristic of  nothing  but  tranquillity  and  peace. 

If,  then,  the  beautiful  in  feeling  includes  every  calm 
emotion  of  pleasure,  it  must  of  course  comprehend  con- 
tent,— health  leading  to  serenity  of  body  and  mind  ; 
not  when  it  breaks  out  into  violence  of  action  (the  ab- 
sence of  restraint).  It  must  include  innocence,  affection, 
and  even  esteem,  as  well  as  benevolence :  it  also  in- 
cludes ingenuity  mingled  with  utility,  or  the  surprising 
adaptation  of  means  to  useful  ends  ;  and  a  long  catalogue 
of  feelings,  which  are  pleasing  as  well  as  calm.  These 
seem  to  be  the  characteristics  which  have  governed  men 
in  their  usage  of  this  term.  No  feeling  which  excites 
pain  can  be  beautiful.  There  is  nothing  beautiful  in 
envy,  hatred,  or  malice,  in  cruelty  and  oppression :  but 
when  we  see  a  man  bearing  testimony  to  the  merit  of 
his  rival,  that  is  beautiful ;  when  real  injuries  are  rapidly 
forgiven,  that  is  beautiful.  When  any  human  being, 
who  has  power  and  influence  to  defend  his  oppressions, 
is  as  just  and  considerate  to  the  feelings  of  others,  as  if 
he  were  poor  and  defenseless,  that  is  eminently  beautiful, 
and  gives  to  every  human  being  who  beholds  it,  the 
purest  emotion  of  joy.  I  have  said  a  great  deal  about 
prospect  and  landscape  ;  I  will  mention  an  action  or  two, 
which  appear  to  me  to  convey  as  distinct  a  feeling  of 
the  beautiful,  as  any  landscape  whatever.  A  London 
merchant,  who,  I  believe,  is  still  alive,  while  he  was 
staying  in  the  country  with  a  friend,  happened  to  men- 
tion that  he  intended,  the  next  year,  to  buy  a  ticket  in 
the  lottery ;  his  friend  desired  he  would  buy  one  for  him 
at  the  same  time,  which  of  course  was  very  willingly 
agreed  to.  The  conversation  dropped,  the  ticket  never 
arrived,  and  the  whole  affair  was  entirely  forgotten, 
when  the  country  gentleman  received  information  that 


ON    THE    BEAUTIFUL.  199 

the  ticket  purchased  for  him  by  his  friend,  had  come  up 
a  prize  of  £20,000.  Upon  his  arrival  in  London,  he 
inquired  of  his  friend  where  he  had  put  the  ticket,  and 
why  he  had  not  informed  him  that  it  was  purchased. 
"  I  bought  them  both  the  same  day,  mine  and  your 
ticket,  and  I  flung  them  both  into  a  drawer  of  my 
bureau,  and  I  never  thought  of  them  afterward."  "  But 
how  do  you  distinguish  one  ticket  from  the  other  ?  and 
why  am  I  the  holder  of  the  fortunate  ticket,  more  than 
you  ?"  "  Why,  at  the  time  I  put  them  into  the  drawer, 
I  put  a  little  mark  in  ink  upon  the  ticket  which  I  re- 
solved should  be  yours  ;  and  upon  re-opening  the  drawer, 
I  found  that  the  one  so  marked  was  the  fortunate  ticket." 
Now  this  action  appears  to  me  perfectly  beautiful ;  it  is 
le  beau  ideal  in  morals,  and  gives  that  calm,  yet  deep 
emotion  of  pleasure,  which  every  one  so  easily  receives 
from  the  beauty  of  the  exterior  world. 

There  is  a  very  pretty  story  which  I  shall  read  to  you, 
and  which,  to  my  mind,  is  a  complete  instance  of  the 
beautiful  in  morals. 

"  At  the  siege  of  Namur  by  the  Allies,  there  were  in 
the  ranks  of  the  company  commanded  by  Captain  Pin- 
sent,  in  Colonel  Frederick  Hamilton's  regiment,  one 
Unnion,  a  corporal,  and  one  Valentine,  a  private  sentinel. 
There  happened  between  these  two  men  a  dispute  about 
a  matter  of  love,  which,  upon  some  aggravations,  grew 
to  an  irreconcilable  hatred.  Unnion,  being  the  officer 
of  Valentine,  took  all  opportunities  even  to  strike  his 
rival,  and  profess  his  spite  and  revenge  which  moved 
him  to  it ;  the  sentinel  bore  it  without  resistance,  but 
frequently  said  he  would  die  to  be  revenged  of  that 
tyrant.  They  had  spent  whole  months  thus,  one  injuring, 
the  other  complaining ;  when,  in  the  midst  of  this  rage 
toward  each  other,  they  were  commanded  upon  the 
attack  of  the  castle,  where  the  corporal  received  a  shot 
in  the  thigh  and  'fell.  The  French  pressing  on,  and  he 
expecting  to  be  trampled  to  death,  called  out  to  his 
enemy,  '  Ah,  Valentine,  can  you  leave  me  here  ?'  Valen- 
tine immediately  ran  back,  and,  in  the  midst  of  a  thick 
fire  of  the  French,  took  the  corporal  upon  his  back,  and 
brought  him  through  all  that  danger  as  far  as  the  Abbey 


200  LECTURE    XV. 

of  Salsine,  where  a  cannon-ball  took  off  his  head :  his 
body  fell  under  his  enemy  whom  he  was  carrying  off 
Unnion  immediately  forgot  his  wound,  rose  up,  tearing 
his  hair,  and  then  threw  himself  upon  the  bleeding  car- 
cass, crying,  '  Ah,  Valentine !  was  it  for  me,  who  have 
so  barbarously  used  thee,  that  thou  hast  died !  I  will 
not  live  after  thee/  He  was  not  by  any  means  to  be 
forced  from  the  body,  but  was  removed  with  it  bleeding 
in  his  arms,  and  attended  with  tears  by  all  their  com- 
rades who  knew  their  enmity.  When  he  was  brought 
to  a  tent,  his  wounds  were  dressed  by  force  ;  but  the 
next  day,  still  calling  upon  Valentine,  and  lamenting  his 
cruelties  to  him,  he  died  in  the  pangs  of  remorse  and 
despair. 

"  It  may  be  a  question  among  men  of  noble  sentiment, 
whether  of  these  unfortunate  persons  had  the  greater 
soul — he  that  was  so  generous  as  to  venture  his  life  for 
his  enemy,  or  he  who  could  not  survive  the  man  who 
died  in  laying  upon  him  such  an  obligation  ?"* 

These  are  the  beautiful  feelings  which  lie  hidden  in 
every  man's  heart,  which  alone  make  life  worth  having, 
and  prevent  us  from  looking  upon  the  world  as  a  den 
of  wild  beasts,  thirsting  for  each  other's  blood. 

There  are  some  feelings  that  are  always  beautiful, 
such  as  content  and  benevolence ;  there  are  others  that 
appear  to  be  beautiful,  exactly  according  to  the  degree 
in  which  they  are  felt,  or  to  the  other  feelings  with 
which  they  are  mingled.  We  compassionate  a  man  who 
has  broken  both  his  legs,  but  the  feeling  is  accompanied 
with  too  much  pain,  and  is  far  too  tumultuous,  to  be 
called  beautiful. 

I  should  compassionate  two  young  people  who  were 
just  married,  and  who,  after  their  marriage,  had  expe- 
rienced a  loss  of  fortune  that  reduced  them  to  embar- 
rassments ;  but  this  feeling  of  compassion,  being  much 
less  violent  and  tumultuous,  approaches  much  nearer  to 
the  beautiful.  All  description  in  poetry,  or  imitation  in 
painting,  of  any  degree  of  compassion,  would  be  so  much 
less  powerful  than  the  real  observation  of  it  in  nature, 
that  it  might  convey  the  feeling  of  the  beautiful.     The 

*  Tatler,  No.  V.  p.  18. 


ON    THE    BEAUTIFUL.  201 

real  compassion  we  should  have  felt  for  Lady  Randolph 
deploring  the  loss  of  her  son,  if  there  had  been  a  real 
Lady  Randolph,  would  have  been  a  feeling  much  too 
violent  for  the  beautiful ;  but,  lowered  and  diminished 
by  the  imperfect  deception  of  imitation,  or  the  refrig- 
erating medium  of  description,  it  is  brought  to  the  stan- 
dard which  renders  it  compatible  with  that  feeling.  It 
appears  also,  that  those  feelings  which  are  the  reverse 
of  beautiful  may,  in  poetry  and  in  painting,  be  rendered 
compatible  with  it,  by  being  softened  and  lowered  from 
that  intense  effect  they  produce  in  real  nature, — by  being 
joined  with  harmonious  sounds,  conveyed  in  metrical 
language, — by  exciting  admiration  of  skill,  and  gratifying 
that  pleasure  which  results  from  accurate  imitation. 

I  consider  mere  imitation,  rather  as  an  auxiliary  to 
the  feeling  of  the  beautiful,  than  as  sufficient  to  produce 
it  of  itself.  Mere  imitation  is  agreeable,  but  I  question 
if  it  ever  excites,  alone,  the  feeling  of  the  beautiful. 
Could  the  most  accurate  drawing  of  a  rat,  or  a  weasel, 
ever  be  beautiful  ? — or,  if  it  be  contended  that  these  are 
animals  which  excite  disgusting  associations,  could  the 
accurate  drawing  of  a  block  of  Portland  stone,  or  of 
mahogany,  ever  be  beautiful?  If  mere  imitation  can 
excite  the  feeling  of  beauty,  these  subjects,  well  imitated, 
ought  to  come  up  to  that  character,  which  I  hardly  think 
they  ever  could. 

Thus,  then,  I  have,  with  some  pains  to  myself  (and  I 
am  afraid  with  much  more  to  my  audience),  gone  through 
this  subject  of  the  beautiful ;  a  subject  certainly  of  great 
difficulty,  and  on  which  probable  opinion  must  be  ex- 
pected, rather  than  certain  conviction.  To  silence 
opposition  on  such  a  subject,  is  of  course  impossible : 
every  man,  in  discussing  it,  must  fling  himself  upon  the 
candor  of  his  audience,  and,  instead  of  defying  their 
objections,  request  them  to  assist  him  in  overcoming 
them. 

One  method  of  trying  the  justice  of  what  I  have  said 
respecting  the  beautiful,  will  be,  to  see  what  is  meant  by 
the  opposite  expression  of  ugliness.  An  ugly  face  is  a 
face  which  is  not  smooth,  nor  of  a  clear,  transparent 
color ;  which  expresses  unpleasant  passions,  and  where 

i* 


202  LECTURE    XV. 

the  magnitudes,  proportions,  and  figures,  are  very  un- 
customary. An  ugly  landscape  is  one  devoid  of  variety, 
of  beautiful  color ;  and  which  excites  feelings  of  dreari- 
ness, coldness,  and  disease,  rather  than  of  warmth,  health, 
and  enjoyment.  An  ugly  animal  is  one,  in  the  con- 
formation of  which,  the  custom  of  nature  is  violated,  or 
which  excites  the  associations  of  sloth,  gluttony,  inutility, 
and  malice,  rather  than  the  opposite  of  all  these  qualities. 
If  pigs  did  not  make  such  excellent  hams,  they  would  be 
the  most  detestable  of  all  animals  on  the  face  of  the 
earth  ;  and,  accordingly,  all  nations  that  do  not  eat  them, 
hate  them :  they  are  only  restored  to  favor  upon  condi- 
tion of  being  dressed  for  dinner. 

Ugly  buildings,  are  buildings  in  which  the  figures  are 
not  regular,  nor  the  divisions  convenient,  nor  the  propor- 
tions such  as  are  associated  with  durability,  or  elegance, 
or  any  pleasant  impression.  In  ugly  music,  if  I  may  use 
the  expression,  the  sound  is  not  in  itself  pleasing,  and  it 
conveys  no  pleasing  association.  In  short,  we  shall  al- 
ways find,  that  in  using  this  word,  which  is  the  exact 
contrary  to  beauty,  we  shall  always  be  influenced  by  the 
absence  of  those  causes,  from  which  I,  and  many  others 
before  me,  have  stated  the  feeling  of  the  beautiful  to 
proceed.  The  sum,  then,  of  what  I  have  said  on  these 
subjects  is,  that  there  is  a  mere  beauty  of  matter, — or 
rather  I  should  say  a  feeling  of  the  mind,  occasioned  by 
certain  qualities  of  matter,  to  which  we  have  given  the 
name  of  the  beautiful  ;  and  other  feelings  of  the  mind, 
not  occasioned  by  the  intervention  of  any  thing  mate- 
rial, which  are  found  to  resemble  the  first  class,  and 
have  received  the  same  name.  How  it  comes  about 
that  large  masses  of  green  or  blue  light  should  produce 
any  effects  similar  to  those  which  are  produced  by  be- 
nevolence,— that  there  should  be  such  an  analogy  between 
content  and  smoothness,  between  any  material  and  any 
moral  beauty — I  can  not  take  upon  me  to  determine  ;  but 
that  consent  among  mankind  so  to  consider  them, 
evinced  by  the  language  of  many  countries,  is  an  evi- 
dence that  there  is  some  real  foundation  in  nature  for 
the  resemblance.  The  emotion  produced  by  both,  is 
calm  and  gentle  :  both  are  pleasing  :  both  lose  their  char- 


ON    THE    BEAUTIFUL. 

acter  of  the  beautiful,  the  moment  that  they  hurry  the 
mind  into  any  tumultuous  sensation,  or  afflict  it  with  any 
degree  of  pain.  What  was  the  intention  of  Providence, 
in  creating  this  affinity  between  our  minds  and  the  planet 
on  which  we  dwell,  it  would  be  rash,  perhaps,  to  conjec- 
ture. The  effects  of  it,  however,  I  can  not  help  thinking, 
are  often  very  perceptible.  The  mind,  composed  by  the 
beauty  of  natural  objects,  is  brought  into  that  state,  in 
which  the  beautiful  in  morals  spontaneously  rises  up  to 
its  notice,  and,  amid  the  fragrance  and  verdure  of  the 
earth,  is  still  more  refreshed  by  the  feeling  of  the  mild 
and  amiable  virtues.  In  the  stillness  of  an  evening  in 
the  summer,  when  every  sense  is  gratified  by  the  beau- 
ties of  the  creation,  we  have  all  felt  the  kindred  beauties 
of  the  mind  ;  we  have  all  felt  disposed  to  forgiveness  on 
such  moments,  to  pity,  to  kindness,  to  be  gracious  and 
merciful  to  every  created  being ;  we  have  felt  ourselves 
drawn  toward  virtue  by  some  invisible  power,  and  be- 
trayed into  the  gentlest  and  happiest  tenor  of  mind.  If 
the  very  form  and  color  of  things  have  a  tendency  to 
guide  the  mind  of  man  to  rectitude  of  thought,  and  pro- 
priety of  action,  it  is  a  new  proof  of  the  goodness  of 
Providence,  and  gives  fresh  dignity  to  that  class  of  feel- 
ings which  have  hitherto  been  considered  to  exist  for 
pleasure  alone. 

"  For  as  old  Memnon's  image,  long  renown' d 
By  fabling  Nilus,  to  the  quivering  touch 
Of  Titan's  ray,  with  each  repulsive  string 
Consenting,  sounded  through  the  warbling  air 
Unbidden  strains ;  even  so  did  Nature's  hand 
To  certain  species  of  external  things, 
Attune  the  finer  organs  of  the  mind : 
So  the  glad  impulse  of  congenial  powers, 
Or  of  sweet  sounds,  or  fair-proportion'd  form, 
The  grace  of  motion,  or  the  bloom  of  light, 
Thrills  through  Imagination's  tender  frame, 
From  nerve  to  nerve  :  all  naked  and  alive 
They  catch  the  spreading  rays ;  till  now  the  soul 
At  length  discloses  every  tuneful  spring, 
To  that  harmonious  movement  from  without 
Responsive.     Then  the  inexpressive  strain 
Diffuses  its  enchantment :  Fancy  dreams 
Of  sacred  fountains  and  Elysian  groves, 
And  vales  of  bliss :  the  intellectual  power 
Bends  from  his  awful  throne  a  wondering  ear 


204  LECTURE    XV. 

And  smiles  :  the  passions,  gently  sooth' d  away, 
Sinks  to  divine  repose,  and  love  and  joy 
Alone  are  -waking ;  love  and  joy,  serene 
As  airs  that  fan  the  summer."* 

There  is  another  class  of  objects — the  picturesque — 
which  have  given  rise  to  various  controversies  between 
some  very  ingenious  gentlemen ;  and  which  have,  from 
the  elegance  of  the  subject,  and  the  very  pleasing  man- 
ner in  which  it  has  been  discussed,  attracted  a  consider- 
able share  of  attention. 

Mr.  Gilpin  defines  picturesque  objects  to  be  those 
which  please  from  some  quality  capable  of  being  illus- 
trated in  painting,  or  such  objects  as  are  proper  for 
painting.  Mr.  Price  attempts  to  show  that  the  pictur- 
esque has  a  character  no  less  separate  and  distinct,  than 
either  the  sublime,  or  the  beautiful ;  and  quite  as  much 
independent  of  the  art  of  painting.  The  characteristics 
of  the  beautiful,  are  smoothness  and  gradual  variation  ; 
those  of  the  picturesque,  directly  the  reverse, — rough- 
ness, and  sudden  variation.  A  temple  of  Grecian  archi- 
tecture in  its  smooth  state,  is  beautiful ;  in  its  ruin,  is 
picturesque.  Symmetry,  which,  in  works  of  art,  accords 
with  the  beautiful,  is  in  the  same  degree  adverse  to  the 
picturesque.  Many  old  buildings,  such  as  hovels,  cot- 
tages, mills,  ragged  insides  of  old  barns  and  stables,  when- 
ever they  have  any  peculiar  effect  of  light,  form,  tint,  or 
shadow,  are  eminently  picturesque ;  though  they  have 
not  a  pretension  to  be  called  either  grand  or  beautiful. 
Smooth  water  is  beautiful,  rough  water  picturesque. 
The  smooth  young  ash,  the  fresh  tender  beech,  are  beau- 
tiful; the  rugged  old  oak,  and  knotty  whych-elm,  pic- 
turesque. In  animals,  the  same  distinction  prevails.  The 
ass  is  more  picturesque  than  the  horse.  Of  horses,  the 
wild  forester,  with  his  rough  coat,  his  mane,  and  tail, 
ragged  and  uneven,  or  the  worn-out  cart-horse,  with  his 
staring  bones,  are  the  most  picturesque.  The  pictur- 
esque abhors  sleekness,  plumpness,  smoothness,  and  con- 
vexity, in  animals.  Among  our  own  species,  beggars, 
gipsys,  and  all  such  rough,  tattered  figures  as  are  mere- 
ly picturesque,  bear  a  close  analogy,  in  all  the  qualities 
*  Akenside's  Pleasures  of  Imagination  book  1. 


ON    THE    BEAUTIFUL.  205 

that  make  them  so,  to  old  hovels  and  mills,  to  the  wild 
forest  horse,  and  other  objects  of  the  same  kind.  "  If 
we  ascend/'  adds  Mr.  Price,  '•  to  the  highest  order  of 
created  beings,  as  painted  by  the  grandest  of  our  poets, 
they,  in  their  state  of  glory  and  happiness,  raise  no  ideas 
but  those  of  beauty  and  sublimity.  The  picturesque 
(as  in  earthly  objects)  only  shows  itself  when  they  are 
in  a  state  of  ruin ;  when  shadows  have  obscured  their 
original  brightness,  and  that  uniform,  though  angelic,  ex- 
pression of  pure  love  and  joy,  has  been  destroyed  by  a 
variety  of  warring  passions. 

1  Darken'd  so,  yet  shone 
Above  them  all  the  Archangel ;  but  his  face 
Deep  scars  of  thunder  had  entrench'd,  and  care 
Sat  on  his  faded  cheek,  and  under  brows 
Of  dauntless  courage  and  considerate  pride 
Waiting  revenge ;  cruel  his  eye,  but  cast 
Signs  of  remorse  and  passion.'  "* 

Mr.  Price  then  goes  on  to  show,  that  these  two  char- 
acters of  the  picturesque  and  beautiful,  are  perfectly  dis- 
tinguishable in  painting  and  in  grounds.  He  traces  it 
in  color  ;  and  maintains  that  there  is  a  picturesque  in 
taste  and  in  smell.  One  principal  effect  of  smoothness, 
according  to  Mr.  Burke  and  Mr.  Price,  the  essential 
characteristic  of  beauty,  is,  that  it  gives  an  appear- 
ance of  quiet  and  repose  to  all  objects ;  roughness,  on 
the  contrary,  a  spirit  and  animation.  Hence,  where 
there  is  a  want  of  smoothness,  there  will  be  a  want  of 
repose ;  and  where  there  is  no  roughness,  there  is  a 
want  of  spirit  and  stimulus.  Picturesqueness,  therefore, 
appears  in  this  theory  to  hold  a  station  between  beauty 
and  sublimity ;  and,  on  that  account,  to  be  more  fre- 
quently and  happily  blended  with  them  both,  than  they 
are  with  each  other ;  it  is,  however,  distinct  from  either. 
It  is  not  the  beautiful,  because  it  is  founded  on  qualities 
totally  opposite  to  the  beautiful — on  roughness,  and 
sudden  variation  ;  on  that  of  age,  and  even  of  decay. 
It  is  not  the  sublime,  because  it  has  nothing  to  do  with 
greatness  of  dimensions,  and  is  found  in  the  smallest 
as  well  as  the  largest  objects  ;  it  inspires  no  feelings  of 
*  Price  on  the  Picturesque,  p.  71. 


206  LECTURE    XIV. 

awe  and  terror,  like  the  sublime :  the  picturesque  loves 
boundaries, — infinity  is  one  of  the  efficient  causes  of 
the  sublime.  Lastly  :  uniformity,  which  is  so  great  an 
enemy  to  the  picturesque,  is  not  only  compatible  with 
the  sublime,  but  often  the  cause  of  it.  Concerning  the 
elegance  with  which  this  dissertation  on  the  picturesque 
is  expressed,  and  the  ingenuity  with  which  it  is  con- 
ceived, there  can,  I  should  think,  be  but  one  opinion ; 
it  is  not  often,  in  such  difficult  investigations,  that  per- 
spicuity, acuteness,  good  taste,  and  admirable  writing, 
are  so  eminently  united.  But,  however,  it  is  not  quite 
so  easy  to  determine  upon  the  real  truth  and  justice 
which  the  system  contains.  One  thing  seems  quite 
clear,  that  Mr.  Price  has  chosen  a  very  bad  word  for  the 
class  of  feelings  which  he  conceives  himself  to  have  dis- 
covered ;  nor  does  he,  in  my  humble  opinion,  at  all 
justify  it,  by  what  he  says  of  its  etymology.  The  word 
will  naturally  be  taken  by  every  body  for  that  which  is 
fit  to  make  a  good  picture ;  and  so,  according  to  the 
genius  of  our  language,  it  ought  to  be  taken  ;  and  one 
of  the  most  considerable  difficulties  Mr.  Price's  theory 
will  have  to  encounter,  will  be  that  of  affixing  any  other 
meaning  to  this  expression  of  the  picturesque.  With 
respect  to  the  theory  itself,  the  first  question  seems  to 
be,  Is  there  any  class  of  objects,  to  be  distinguished  by 
any  assignable  circumstances,  which  inspire  the  mind 
with  a  common  feeling  ?  This,  Mr.  Price  has,  I  think, 
proved  clearly  enough.  All  the  objects  he  has  men- 
tioned— the  old  horse,  the  jackass,  the  mill,  the  beggar 
— do  arrest  the  attention,  and  arrest  it  in  a  similar 
manner ;  and  not  merely  with  a  reference  to  the  art  of 
painting,  for  a  person  wholly  unacquainted  with  pictures, 
but  who  had  leisure  to  contemplate  the  appearances  of 
natural  objects,  would  probably  notice  these,  which  I 
have  mentioned,  and  refer  them  to  one  class,  from  the 
similar  manner  in  which  they  affected  his  mind.  They 
all  rouse  the  mind  agreeably,  and  provoke  instant  atten- 
tion. After  the  first  sensation  is  over,  the  different 
objects  lead  the  mind  into  a  different  set  of  feelings, 
according  to  the  particular  nature  of  each  object  ;  but 
there  is  I  think   one  common  sensation  they  excite  at 


ON    THE    BEAUTIFUL.  207 

first,  which  establishes  a  common  nature,  and  justifies 
the  classification  of  Mr.  Price.  These  are  very  difficult 
subjects  to  speculate  upon,  and  not  quite  as  important 
as  they  are  difficult ;  but  I  should  rather  think  it  might 
be  the  very  faintest  feeling  of  grandeur  or  sublimity 
which  Mr.  Price  distinguishes  under  the  appellation  of 
picturesque.  Sudden  variation,  for  instance,  in  a  great 
scale,  is  most  commonly  either  grand  or  sublime  ;  it  sets 
all  the  faculties  up  in  arms,  and  communicates  that  feel- 
ing of  faint  danger,  which  is  so  necessary  an  ingredient 
to  the  sublime.  To  come  upon  a  sudden  on  a  yawning 
abyss,  unless  the  danger  be  imminent,  is  sublime.  The 
sudden  variation  from  the  hill  country  of  Gloucester- 
shire to  the  Vale  of  Severn,  as  observed  from  Birdlip, 
or  Frowcester  Hill,  is  strikingly  sublime.  You  travel 
for  twenty  or  five-and-twenty  miles  over  one  of  the  most 
unfortunate,  desolate  countries  under  heaven,  divided 
by  stone  walls,  and  abandoned  to  screaming  kites  and 
larcenous  crows;  after  traveling  really  twenty,  and  to 
appearance  ninety  miles,  over  this  region  of  stone  and 
sorrow,  life  begins  to  be  a  burden,  and  you  wish  to  perish. 
At  the  very  moment  when  you  are  taking  this  melan- 
choly view  of  human  affairs,  and  hating  the  postilion, 
and  blaming  the  horses,  there  bursts  upon  your  view, 
with  all  its  towers,  forests,  and  streams,  the  deep  and 
shaded  Vale  of  Severn.  Sterility  and  nakedness  are 
thrown  in  the  background  :  as  far  as  the  eye  can  reach, 
all  is  comfort,  opulence,  product,  and  beauty  :  now  it  is 
an  ancient  city,  or  a  fair  castle  rising  out  of  the  forests, 
and  now  the  beautiful  Severn  is  noticed  winding  among 
the  cultivated  fields,  and  the  cheerful  habitations  of 
men.  The  train  of  mournful  impressions  is  quite 
effaced,  and  you  descend  rapidly  into  a  vale  of  plenty, 
with  a  heart  full  of  wonder  and  delight.  Now  the  effect 
produced  by  sudden  variation  on  a  great  scale,  impresses 
itself,  perhaps,  on  the  mind,  and  is  not  forgotten  on  lesser 
occasions  ;  and  what  Mr.  Price  calls  the  picturesque 
may  be  the  faintest  state  of  this  feeling,  which  requires 
nothing  but  greater  dimensions  to  exalt  itself  into  the  real 
sublime.  I  only  mention  this  as  a  very  frivolous  conjec- 
ture, upon  a  very  unimportant  subject,  which  I  bring  for- 
ward without  reflection,  and  part  with  without  difficulty. 


LECTURE    XVI. 

ON  THE  SUBLIME. 

I  mean  by  the  sublime,  as  I  meant  by  the  beautiful,  a 
feeling  of  mind ;  though,  of  course,  a  very  different  feel- 
ing. It  is  a  feeling  of  pleasure,  but  of  exalted  tremulous 
pleasure,  bordering  on  the  very  confines  of  pain ;  and 
driving  before  it  every  calm  thought,  and  every  regu- 
lated feeling.  It  is  the  feeling  which  men  experience 
when  they  behold  marvelous  scenes  of  nature ;  or  when 
they  see  great  actions  performed.  Such  feelings  as  come 
on  the  top  of  exceeding  high  mountains ;  or  the  hour 
before  a  battle  ;  or  when  a  man  of  great  power,  and  of 
an  unyielding  spirit,  is  pleading  before  some  august  tri- 
bunal against  the  accusations  of  his  enemies.  These  are 
the  hours  of  sublimity,  when  all  low  and  little  passions 
are  swallowed  up  by  an  overwhelming  feeling ;  when 
the  mind  towers  and  springs  above  its  common  limits, 
breaks  out  into  larger  dimensions,  and  swells  into  a 
nobler  and  grander  nature.  It  is  necessary  here  to 
notice  the  opinions  of  Dr.  Reid  and  Mr.  Alison,  upon 
the  subject  of  the  sublime,  which  I  think  may  be  very 
fairly  expressed  by  this  short  quotation  from  the  former 
of  these  gentlemen  : — "  When  we  consider  matter  as  an 
inert,  extended,  divisible,  and  movable  substance,  there 
seems  to  be  nothing  in  these  qualities  which  we  can  call 
grand ;  and  when  we  ascribe  grandeur  to  any  portion 
of  matter,  however  modified,  may  it  not  borrow  this 
quality  from  something  intellectual,  of  which  it  is  the 
effect,  or  sign,  or  instrument,  or  to  which  it  bears  some 
analogy ;  or,  perhaps,  because  it  produces  in  the  mind 
an  emotion  that  has  some  resemblance  to  that  admira- 
tion, which  truly  grand  objects  raise  ? 

#  #  *  #  #  #  # 


ON    THE    SUBLIME.  209 

"  Upon  the  whole,  I  humbly  apprehend,  that  true 
grandeur  is  such  a  degree  of  excellence  as  is  fit  to  raise 
an  enthusiastic  admiration  ;  that  this  grandeur  is  found 
originally  and  properly  in  qualities  of  the  mind  ;  that  it 
is  discerned  in  objects  of  sense,  only  by  reflection,  as  the 
light  we  perceive  in  the  moon  and  planets  is,  truly,  the 
light  of  the  sun ;  and  that  those  who  look  for  grandeur 
in  mere  matter,  seek  the  living  among  the  dead. 

"  If  this  be  a  mistake,  it  ought  at  least  to  be  granted, 
that  the  grandeur  which  we  perceive  in  qualities  of 
mind,  ought  to  have  a  different  name  from  that  which 
belongs  properly  to  the  objects  of  sense,  as  they  are  very 
different  in  their  nature,  and  produce  very  different 
emotions  in  the  mind  of  the  spectator."* 

Upon  the  justice  of  these  observations  every  one  must 
determine  for  themselves.  When  I  look  upon  a  forest, 
I  confess  I  am  quite  unconscious  of  any  qualities  of 
mind,  which  excite  in  me  the  feelings  by  which  I  am 
then  possessed  ;  nor  can  I,  upon  mature  reflection,  find 
that  any  other  feelings  are  excited  in  me  but  wonder 
and  terror  :  nor  can  I  admit  that  the  sublimity  excited 
by  matter,  or  by  qualities  of  mind,  should  have  different 
names,  because  I  firmly  believe  that  the  two  feelings  do 
very  much  resemble  each  other  ;  and  if  that  be  the  case, 
their  similarity  of  name  indicates  their  affinity,  and  in- 
troduces something  like  classification  into  such  a  dark 
and  mysterious  subject  as  the  feelings  of  the  mind.  I 
have  said  so  much  in  my  Lectures  on  the  Beautiful, 
against  referring  that  feeling  to  moral  qualities  alone, 
and  the  arguments  would  be  so  precisely  the  same  for 
this  feeling  of  the  sublime,  that  I  forbear  going  over  them 
again.  "  The  first  cause  of  this  feeling,"  says  Mr.  Burke, 
"  is  obscurity.  '  In  thoughts  from  the  visions  of  the 
night,  when  deep  sleep  falleth  upon  men,  fear  came  upon 
me,  and  trembling  ;  which  made  all  my  bones  to  shake  : 
then,  a  spirit  passed  before  my  eyes;  the  hair  of  my  flesh 
stood  up  !  it  stood  still,  but  I  could  not  discern  the  form 
thereof :  an  image  was  before  mine  eyes !  there  was 
silence,  and  I  heard  a  voice !     Shall  mortal  man  be  more 

*  Reid's  Essays  on  the  Powers  of  the  Mind, 


210  LECTURE    XVI. 

just  than  God  ?' "  Now,  throughout  the  whole  of  this 
description,  as  Mr.  Burke  very  justly  observes,  there  is 
an  obscurity  which  fills  the  mind  with  terror  (such 
terror,  I  mean,  as  is  excited  by  description;)  every  thing 
is  half  obscure  ;  it  takes  place  in  a  dream.  The  appari- 
tion is  half  seen, — it  has  no  determinate  form.  There  is 
space  and  verge  enough  for  every  horror  that  the  most 
fruitful  imagination  can  suggest ;  there  are  no  limits  to 
the  conception  of  the  dreadful :  no  man's  fancy  could 
paint  any  thing  positive,  so  terrific,  as  every  man's 
fancy,  in  this  instance,  is  left  to  paint  for  itself. 

Obscurity  here  seems  to  operate  in  the  production  of 
the  sublime,  as  it  is  a  medium  of  terror ;  for  whatever 
else  be  added  to  it,  terror  seems  in  one  shape  or  another, 
or  in  some  degree  or  another,  to  be  essential  to  the  sub- 
lime. The  degree  that  each  individual  can  bear  of 
terror,  without  destroying  the  feeling  of  the  sublime, 
must  of  course  depend  upon  the  force  of  every  man's 
blood,  and  the  strength  of  his  nerves.  I  have  heard  of 
a  clergyman  so  extremely  fond  of  the  sublime,  that  he 
procured  admission  into  the  foremost  parallels  at  the 
siege  of  Valenciennes,  in  order  to  contemplate  the  firing 
from  the  batteries  of  the  town  the  more  distinctly  :  such 
a  situation.  I  should  have  thought,  would  have  been  a 
little  too  sublime  for  Longinus  himself,  and  evinces 
certainly  a  disregard  for  personal  danger,  with  which 
the  generality  of  the  world,  in  their  enjoyment  of  this 
high  feeling,  can  not  keep  pace. 

Mere  terror,  even  in  that  moderated  degree  of  which 
I  am  speaking,  does  not  produce  the  sublime  by  itself ; 
for  if  an  angry  man  flourishes  a  loaded  pistol  near  me, 
in  all  directions,  and  exhibits  a  very  careless  manage- 
ment of  that  interesting  machine,  I  have  fear  in  a  certain 
degree,  without  a  particle  of  sublimity.  If  a  cow  shows 
some  slight  disposition  to  run  at  me  as  I  am  crossing  a 
field,  I  am  frightened,  but  my  mind  experiences  nothing 
of  the  sublime.  If  I  am  attended  by  a  bad  apothecary 
in  an  illness,  I  am  excessively  frightened,  but  he  never 
appears  to  me  in  the  light  of  a  sublime  apothecary. 
Fear,  therefore,  commonly  enters  into  the  feeling  of  the 
sublime  as  an  ingredient ;    or  rather,  I  should  say,  is  an 


ON    THE    SUBLIME.  211 

ingredient  of  the  cause  of  that  feeling  ;  though  it  can  not 
excite  it  by  itself.  But  some  men  tell  you  it  is  not  fear 
which  is  the  ingredient,  but  awe  ;  but  is  not  fear  an 
ingredient  of  awe? — for  what  is  awe,  but  fear  and 
admiration  mingled  together ;  both  existing,  perhaps,  in 
a  less  degree,  than  they  are  to  be  met  with  in  the  sub- 
lime ?  But  if  the  feeling  of  awe  be  not  of  the  family  of 
fear,  I  am  quite  ignorant  both  of  its  genealogy  and  nature. 

A  mixture  of  wonder  and  terror  almost  always  excites 
the  feeling  of  the  sublime.  Extraordinary  power  gene- 
rally excites  the  feeling  of  the  sublime  by  these  means, — 
by  mixing  wonder  with  terror.  A  person  who  has 
never  seen  any  thing  of  the  kind  but  a  little  boat,  would 
think  a  sloop  of  eighty  tons  a  goodly  and  somewhat  of  a 
grand  object,  if  all  her  sails  were  set,  and  she  were  going 
gallantly  before  the  wind ;  but  a  first-rate  man-of-war 
would  sail  over  such  a  sloop,  and  send  her  to  the  bottom, 
without  any  person  on  board  the  man-of-war  perceiving 
that  they  had  encountered  any  obstacle.  Such  power 
is  wonderful  and  terrible, — therefore,  sublime.  Every 
body  possessed  of  power  is  an  object  either  of  awe  or 
sublimity,  from  a  justice  of  peace  up  to  the  Emperor 
Aurungzebe — an  object  quite  as  stupendous  as  the  Alps. 
He  had  thirty-five  millions  of  revenue,  in  a  country 
where  the  products  of  the  earth  are,  at  least,  six  times  as 
cheap  as  in  England  :  his  empire  extended  over  twenty- 
five  degrees  of  latitude,  and  as  many  of  longitude :  he 
had  put  to  death  above  twenty  millions  of  people.  1 
should  like  to  know  the  man  who  could  have  looked  at 
Aurungzebe  without  feeling  him  to  the  end  of  his  limbs, 
and  in  every  hair  of  his  head !  Such  emperors  are  more 
sublime  than  cataracts.  I  think  any  man  would  have 
shivered  more  at  the  sight  of  Aurungzebe,  than  at  the 
sight  of  the  two  rivers  which  meet  at  the  Blue  Moun- 
tains, in  America,  and,  bursting  through  the  whole 
breadth  of  the  rocks,  roll  their  victorious  and  united 
waters  to  the  Eastern  Sea. 

Homer  represents  the  horses  of  Juno  as  leaping  at  one 
bound  across  the  horizon  : 

"  For  as  a  shepherd,  from  some  point  on  high, 
O'er  the  wide  main  extends  his  boundless  eye, — 


212  LECTURE    XVI. 

Through  such  a  space  of  air,  with  thund'ring  sound, 
At  one  long  leap,  the  immortal  coursers  bound !" 

Power  is  here  the  cause  of  the  sublime  ;  and  Longinus 
observes  of  this  thought,  that  if  the  steeds  of  the  deity 
were  to  take  a  second  leap,  the  world  itself  would  want 
room  for  it.  I  must  beg  leave  to  mention  here,  that 
wonder  is  not  always  mingled  with  fear  ;  and  that  fear  is 
by  no  means  the  necessary  consequence  of  wonder.  I 
may  be  living  in  Portuguese  America,  and  find  a  diamond 
as  big  as  a  hen's  egg  ; — here  is  wonder,  but  nothing  like 
fear.  Count  Borrilowski  excites  a  sufficient  degree  of 
wonder,  but  a  feeling  as  distinct  from  fear  as  any  feeling 
can  be. 

Magnitude  is  a  cause  of  the  sublime,  as  it  excites  a 
mixture  of  wonder  and  terror.  The  great  horse,  now 
to  be  seen  for  a  shilling,  is  not  sublime,  because  it  is  so 
exceedingly  tame,  and  even  stupid,  that  it  does  not  excite 
the  smallest  degree  of  danger.  A  bull  of  the  size  of  this 
animal  would  be  an  object  of  sublimity,  because  it  would 
excite  feelings  both  of  wonder  and  feav. 

Magnitudes  may  be  considered  either  as  relative  to 
the  species  of  the  thing  itself,  or  relative  to  all  other 
things.  Any  object  of  unusual  magnitude  for  its  spe- 
cies, accompanied  by  danger,  would  have  a  strong  ten- 
dency to  excite  some  feeling  of  the  sublime.  The  largest 
snake  ever  seen  in  this  country,  might  have  some  chance 
of  exciting  the  feeling  of  sublimity,  though  a  middling- 
sized  one  certainly  would  not.  We  call  this  object  large, 
because  it  is  large  for  its  own  species ;  though,  going 
through  all  the  chain  of  magnitudes,  from  a  mountain 
to  a  grain  of  dust,  we  could  hardly  call  such  a  snake  a 
large  object.  Magnitude  in  height — as  a  very  lofty 
mountain — would  excite  the  sublime,  from  mingling 
wonder  with  terror.  In  looking  down  from  a  lofty  place, 
every  one  is  aware  of  the  terror  mingled  with  the  won- 
der. In  looking  up  to  a  lofty  place,  the  terror  is  more 
faint,  but  still  it  may  be  distinctly  recognized.  The  word 
we  commonly  use  to  express  our  feelings  on  such  occa- 
sions, is  awe ;  but  such  awe  is  most  probably  nothing 
but  a  distant  conception    of  the   personal   danger   we 


ON    THE    SUBLIME.  213 

should  experience  if  we  were  upon  the  height  at  which 
we  are  looking,  if  we  were  to  slip  from  it,  and  be  pre- 
cipitated to  the  bottom.  Silence  is  sublime  to  those  who 
are  unaccustomed  to  it,  after  a  long  residence  in  London. 
The  profound  silence  of  the  country  is  quite  affecting 
and  impressive : — 

"  all  the  air  a  solemn  stillness  holds  /" 

The  solitude  of  a  Gothic  cathedral,  or  that  which 
reigns  throughout  an  extensive  ruin — as  at  Tintern  and 
Fountain's  Abbey, — are  very  sublime.  That  such  scenes 
of  solitude  and  silence  excite  wonder  in  those  little  ac- 
customed to  them,  there  can  be  no  doubt ;  but  that  faint 
tinge  of  danger  is  also  discoverable  in  them  which  is  so 
common  an  ingredient  of  the  sublime  :  they  remind  us, 
however  distantly,  of  our  weak  and  unprotected  state, 
and  bring  with  them  a  faint  and  obscure  image  of  death 
and  danger. 

"  Tis  as  the  general  pulse 
Of  life  stood  still,  and  nature  made  a  pause — 
An  awful  pause  !  prophetic  of  her  end." 

Infinity,  perhaps,  raises  the  idea  of  the  sublime,  by 
mixing  the  wonderful  with  terror:  at  least,  I  think  there 
is  a  distinct  impression  of  fear,  produced  by  the  notion 
of  infinity;  and  certainly  there  is  one  of  wonder.  Im- 
mensity of  any  kind  excites  the  notion  of  power,  and  the 
distant  sense  of  fear.  Look  at  a  little  green  grass-plat 
before  a  house ;  nothing  can  be  more  insignificant : 
magnify  it  into  a  field ;  you  are  not  struck  with  it :  let 
it  be  a  smooth,  uniform,  boundless  plain,  stretching  on 
every  side  further  than  the  eye  can  reach,  and  it  be- 
comes a  sublime  object.  How  vast  must  be  the  power 
that  has  arranged  such  a  mass  of  matter !  where  does  it 
lead  to  ?  what  ends  it  ?  how  dreadful  it  would  be  to 
cross  it  in  a  storm !  how  impossible  to  procure  assist- 
ance !  how  remote  from  every  human  being  ! — these  are 
the  notions  which  pass  rapidly  through  the  mind,  and 
impress  it  in  the  awful  manner  of  which  we  are  all  con- 
scious on  such  occasions. 

Wonder,  in  itself,  is  a  pleasing  passion ;  fear  is  not ; 


214  LECTURE    XVI. 

and  as  the  sublime  inclines  more  to  one  or  the  other,  it 
assumes  different  shades  of  character.  Sometimes  it 
borders  more  upon  delight,  from  the  very  faint  tinge  of 
fear  which  is  mingled  with  it ;  at  others,  it  approaches 
much  nearer  to  mere  terror.  There  is  in  this  descrip- 
tion of  the  sublime,  by  Mr.  Brydonne,  as  much  delight 
as  is  well  compatible  with  it : — 

"  After  contemplating  these  objects  for  some  time,  we 
set  off,  and  soon  after  arrived  at  the  foot  of  the  great 
crater  of  the  mountain.  This  is  of  an  exact  conical 
figure,  and  rises  equally  on  all  sides.  It  is  composed 
solely  of  ashes  and  other  burnt  materials,  discharged  from 
the  mouth  of  the  volcano,  which  is  in  its  center.  This 
conical  mountain  is  of  a  very  great  size  ;  its  circumfer- 
ence can  not  be  less  than  ten  miles.  Here  we  took  a 
second  rest,  as  the  greatest  part  of  our  fatigue  remained. 
We  found  this  mountain  excessively  steep ;  and  although 
it  had  appeared  black,  yet  it  was  likewise  covered  with 
snow,  but  the  surface  (luckily  for  us)  was  spread  over 
with  a  pretty  thick  layer  of  ashes,  thrown  out  from  the 
crater.  Had  it  not  been  for  this,  we  never  should  have 
been  able  to  get  to  the  top,  as  the  snow  was  every- 
where frozen  hard  and  solid,  from  the  piercing  cold  of 
the  air. 

"  In  about  an  hour's  climbing,  wTe  arrived  at  a  place 
where  there  wTas  no  snow,  and  where  a  warm  and 
comfortable  vapor  issued  from  the  mountain ;  which 
induced  us  to  make  another  halt.  From  this  spot  it 
was  only  about  300  yards  to  the  highest  summit  of  the 
mountain,  where  we  arrived  in  full  time  to  see  the  most 
wonderful  and  most  sublime  sight  in  nature. 

"  But  here  description  must  ever  fall  short ;  for  no 
imagination  has  dared  to  form  an  idea  of  so  glorious  and 
so  magnificent  a  scene.  Neither  is  there  on  the  surface 
of  this  globe,  any  one  point  that  unites  so  many  awful 
and  sublime  objects.  The  immense  elevation  from  the 
surface  of  the  earth,  drawn  as  it  were  to  a  single  point, 
without  any  neighboring  mountain  for  the  senses  and 
the  imagination  to  rest  upon,  and  recover  from  their  as- 
tonishment in  their  way  down  to  the  world ;  this  point 
or  pinnacle,  raised  on  the  brink  of  a.  bottomless  gulf, 


ON    THE    SUBLIME.  215 

as  old  as  the  world,  often  discharging  rivers  of  fire,  and 
throwing  out  burning  rocks,  with  a  noise  that  shakes 
the  whole  island :  add  to  this,  the  unbounded  extent  of 
the  prospect,  comprehending  the  greatest  diversity  and 
the  most  beautiful  scenery  in  nature ;  with  the  rising 
sun,  advancing  in  the  east,  to  illuminate  the  wondrous 
scene. 

"  The  whole  atmosphere  by  degrees  kindled  up,  and 
showed  dimly  and  faintly  the  boundless  prospect  around. 
Both  sea  and  land  looked  dark  and  confused,  as  if  only 
emerging  from  their  original  chaos,  and  light  and  dark- 
ness seemed  still  undivided ;  till  the  morning  by  degrees 
advancing,  completed  the  separation.  The  stars  are  ex- 
tinguished, and  the  shades  disappear.  The  forests, 
which  but  now  seemed  black  and  bottomless  gulfs, 
from  whence  no  ray  was  reflected  to  show  their  form  or 
color,  appear  a  new  creation  rising  to  the  sight ;  catch- 
ing life  and  beauty  from  every  increasing  beam.  The 
scene  still  enlarges,  and  the  horizon  seems  to  widen  and 
expand  itself  on  all  sides ;  till  the  sun,  like  the  great 
Creator,  appears  in  the  east,  and  with  its  plastic  ray 
completes  the  mighty  scene !  All  appears  enchant- 
ment ;  and  it  is  with  difficulty  we  can  believe  we  are 
still  on  earth.  The  senses,  unaccustomed  to  the  sub- 
limity of  such  a  scene,  are  bewildered  and  confounded ; 
and  it  is  not  till  after  some  time,  that  they  are  capable 
of  separating  and  judging  of  the  objects  that  compose  it. 
The  body  of  the  sun  is  seen  rising  from  the  ocean,  im- 
mense tracts  both  of  sea  and  land  intervening;  the 
islands  of  Lipari,  Panari,  Alicudi,  Stromboli,  and  Vol- 
cano, with  their  smoking  summits,  appear  under  your 
feet ;  and  you  look  clown  on  the  whole  of  Sicily  as  on  a 
map  ;  and  can  trace  every  river  through  all  its  windings, 
from  its  source  to  its  mouth.  The  view  is  absolutely 
boundless  on  every  side ;  nor  is  there  any  one  ob- 
ject, within  the  circle  of  vision,  to  interrupt  it ;  so  that 
the  sight  is  everywhere  lost  in  the  immensity  :  and  I  am 
persuaded  it  is  only  from  the  imperfection  of  our  organs, 
that  the  coasts  of  Africa,  and  of  Greece,  are  not  dis- 
covered, as  they  are  certainly  above  the  horizon."* 

*  BryHnnne,  vol.  i.  p.  200. 


216  LECTURE    XVI. 

This  description,  by  Sir  William  Hamilton,  of  the 
eruption  of  Vesuvius,  is  of  a  totally  opposite  character  ; 
and  the  sublimity  of  it  is  almost  entirely  destroyed  by 
the  horrors  it  contains  : — 

"In  an  instant,"  he  says,  "a  fountain  of  liquid  fire 
began  to  rise,  and,  gradually  increasing,  rose  to  the 
amazing  height  of  10,000  feet,  and  upward:  the  black- 
est smoke  accompanied  the  red-hot,  transparent,  and 
liquid  lava,  interrupting  its  splendid  brightness  here  and 
there,  by  patches  of  the  darkest  hue.  Within  these 
clouds  of  smoke,  at  the  very  moment  they  broke  out, 
pale  electrical  fire  was  seen  playing  about  in  oblique 
lines.  The  wind,  though  gentle,  was  sufficient  to  carry 
these  blasts  of  smoke  out  of  the  column  of  fire,  and  a 
collection  of  them  by  degrees  formed  a  black  and  ex- 
tensive curtain  behind  it,  while  other  parts  of  the  sky 
were  clear,  and  the  stars  entirely  bright.  All  this  time, 
the  miserable  inhabitants  of  Ottajano  were  involved  in 
the  utmost  distress  and  danger,  by  the  showers  of  stones 
which  fell  upon  them.  Many  of  the  inhabitants  flew  to 
the  churches,  and  others  were  preparing  to  quit  the  town, 
when  a  sudden  and  violent  report  was  heard,  and  pres- 
ently fell  a  vast  shower  of  stones  and  large  pieces  of 
scoriae,  some  of  which  were  of  the  diameter  of  seven  or 
eight  feet,  and  must  have  weighed,  before  they  fell, 
above  one  hundred  pounds.  In  an  instant,  the  town, 
and  country  about  it,  was  on  fire  in  many  places.  To 
add  to  the  horror  of  the  scene,  incessant  volcanic  light- 
ning was  rushing  about  the  black  cloud  that  surrounded 
them,  and  the  sulphureous  smell  would  scarcely  allow 
them  to  draw  their  breath.  In  this  dreadful  situation 
they  remained  about  twenty-five  minutes,  when  the  vol- 
canic storm  ceased  at  once ;  and  Vesuvius  remained 
sullen  and  silent." 

The  sublimity  of  the  first  of  these  descriptions  ap- 
proaches the  confines  of  the  beautiful ; — in  the  last,  of 
the  horrible.  We  must  take  great  care,  in  the  selection 
of  sublime  objects,  not  to  choose  those  which  are  too 
horrible ;  or  which  remind  us  too  intimately  of  danger ; 
because,  as  the  sublime  always  implies  some  mixture  of 
pleasure,  strong  compassion  and  violent  horror  entirely 


ON    THE    SUBLIME.  217 

destroy  it.  "All  sounds/'  says  Mr.  Alison,  "in  general 
are  sublime,  which  are  associated  with  the  idea  of  dan- 
ger ; — the  howling  of  a  storm,  the  murmuring  of  an 
earthquake,  the  report  of  artillery.  All  sounds,"  he  adds, 
"  in  the  same  manner,  are  sublime,  which  are  associated 
with  the  idea  of  deep  melancholy, — as  the  tolling  of  the 
passing  bell."  Now,  I  confess  I  do  not  call  either  the 
murmuring  of  an  earthquake,  or  the  howling  of  a  storm, 
or  the  report  of  artillery,  or  the  tolling  of  a  passing  bell, 
sublime  sounds,  but  merely  horrible  sounds ;  they  are  so 
devoid  of  every  mixture  of  pleasure,  that  they  excite 
nothing  but  fear  or  compassion,  according  as  we  our- 
selves, or  others,  are  most  nearly  affected  by  them ;  they 
are  sublime  in  poetry  or  in  description,  but  in  real  nature 
they  are  dreadful,  and  nothing  else.  In  description,  al- 
most any  thing,  however  dreadful,  may  be  made  sublime 
by  the  prodigious  mitigation  of  the  real  horror,  which  is 
always  remarkable  when  the  passions  are  excited  at 
second-hand.  As  I  have  before  traced  a  connection 
between  that  feeling  of  the  beautiful,  excited  by  the  in- 
tervention of  matter,  and  that  which  presents  itself  to 
the  mind  from  the  contemplation  of  moral  qualities,  it  is 
equally  easy,  in  this  stronger  and  more  marked  feeling 
of  the  sublime,  to  trace  a  similar  resemblance.  All  those 
qualities  of  mind  which  excite  wonder,  and  any  portion 
of  fear, — even  that  very  subdued  species  of  it  we  call 
respect, — raise  an  elevated  sentiment  in  the  mind,  pre- 
cisely similar  to  the  sublime  of  natural  objects.  Im- 
mense courage,  whether  active  or  passive,  is  easily  sub- 
lime. "  In  the  midst  of  this  dreadful  fire  and  carnage," 
says  Voltaire,  speaking  of  the  battle  of  Fontenoy,  "  the 
English  officers  were  seen,  with  the  same  coolness  they 
would  have  displayed  on  the  parade,  leveling  the  mus- 
kets of  the  soldiers  with  their  canes,  in  order  that  they 
might  fire  with  due  precision."  The  death  of  General 
Wolfe  is  quite  sublime,  from  the  love  of  life  being  so  en- 
tirely swallowed  up  in  the  love  of  glory.  "  Toward  the 
end  of  the  battle,  he  received  a  new  wound  in  the  breast; 
he  was  immediately  conveyed  behind  the  rear  rank,  and 
laid  upon  the  ground.  Soon  after,  a  shout  was  heard, 
and  one  of  the  officers   who  stood  bv  him  exclaimed, 

K 


218  LECTURE    XVI. 

•  How  they  run  V  The  dying  hero  asked,  with  some 
emotion,  '  Who  run  ?'  '  The  enemy/  replied  the  officer, 
'  they  give  wTay  everywhere.'  '  Now,  God  be  praised,' 
says  Wolfe,  '  I  shall  die  happy !'  He  then  turned  on  his 
side,  closed  his  eyes,  and  expired." 

Firmness  and  constancy  of  purpose,  that  withstands 
all  solicitation,  and,  in  spite  of  all  dangers,  goes  on 
straightly  to  its  object,  is  very  often  sublime.  The  res- 
olution of  St.  Paul,  in  going  up  to  Jerusalem,  where  he 
has  the  firmest  conviction  that  he  shall  undergo  every 
species  of  persecution,  quite  comes  within  this  descrip- 
tion of  feeling.  "What  mean  ye  to  weep  and  to  break 
my  heart  ?  I  am  ready,  not  to  be  bound  only,  but  to 
die,  at  Jerusalem,  for  the  name  of  Jesus.  I  know  that 
ye  all,  before  whom  I  have  preached  the  kingdom  of 
God,  shall  see  my  face  no  more !  Wherefore  I  take  you 
to  record  this  day,  that  I  am  pure  from  the  blood  of  all 
men.  I  have  coveted  no  man's  silver,  or  gold,  or  ap- 
parel. Ye  yourselves  know,  that  these  hands  have 
ministered  unto  my  necessities,  and  unto  them  which 
were  with  me ;  and  now  it  is  witnessed  in  every  city 
through  which  I  pass,  that  bonds  and  afflictions  await 
me  at  Jerusalem ;  but  not  one  of  these  things  move  me, 
neither  count  I  my  life  dear  to  myself,  so  that  I  might 
finish  my  course  with  joy,  and  the  ministry  which  I 
have  received,  to  testify  the  gospel  of  the  grace  of  God." 

There  is  something  exceedingly  majestic  in  the  steadi- 
ness with  which  the  Apostle  points  out  the  single  object 
of  his  life,  and  the  unquenchable  courage  with  which  he 
walks  toward  it.  "  I  know  1  shall  die,  but  I  have  a 
greater  object  than  life, — the  zeal  of  a  high  duty. 
Situation  allows  some  men  to  think  of  safety ;  I  not  only 
must  not  consult  it,  but  I  must  go  where  I  know  it  will 
be  most  exposed.  I  must  hold  out  my  hands  for  chains, 
and  my  body  for  stripes,  and  my  soul  for  misery.  I  am 
ready  to  do  it  all!"  These  are  the  feelings  by  which 
alone  bold  truths  have  been  told  to  the  world ;  by  which 
the  bondage  of  falsehood  has  been  broken,  and  the  chains 
of  slavery  snapped  asunder !  It  is  in  vain  to  talk  of  men 
numerically ;  if  the  passions  of  a  man  are  exalted  to  a 


ON    THE    SUBLIME.  219 

feebleness  and  fluctuation  of  his  nature  are  shamed 
away,  you  must  not  pretend  to  calculate  upon  his  efforts. 
Under  the  influence  of  sublime  feelings,  sometimes  liberty, 
sometimes  religious  men,  have  sprung  up  from  the  dust, 
to  shiver  the  oldest  dominions ;  to  toss  to  the  ground  the 
highest  despots ;  to  astonish  ages  to  come  with  the  im- 
mensity, and  power,  and  grandeur  of  human  feelings. 
In  all  desperate  situations,  these  are  the  feelings  which 
must  rescue  us :  when  prudence  is  mute,  when  reason  is 
baffled,  when  all  the  ordinary  resources  of  discretion  are 
exhausted  and  dried  up, — there  is  no  safety  but  in  heroic 
passions,  no  hope  but  in  sublime  men.  There  is  no  other 
hope  for  Europe  at  this  moment,  but  that  high  and  om- 
nipotent vengeance,  which  demands  years  of  cruelty  and 
oppression,  in  order  that  it  may  be  lighted  up  in  the 
hearts  of  a  whole  people  ;  but  which,  when  it  does  break 
out  into  action,  is  so  rapid  and  so  terrible,  that  it  resem- 
bles more  the  judgments  of  God  than  the  deeds  of  men. 
Men  are  very  apt  to  be  sublime  when  they  speak  of 
themselves,  and  give  vent  to  those  great  passions  which 
the  important  events  of  life  engender.  The  speech 
which  Logan,  the  Indian  chief,  made  to  Lord  Dunmore, 
in  the  year  1775,  is  full  of  sublimity.  Though  he  was  a 
great  friend  to  the  English,  his  wife  and  all  his  children 
were  murdered  by  them :  this  unworthy  return  excited 
his  vengeance  ;  he  took  up  the  hatchet,  and  signalized 
himself  against  the  whites.  In  a  decisive  battle,  how- 
ever, which  was  fought  upon  the  great  Kanhaway,  the 
Indians  were  defeated,  and  sued  for  peace ;  and  this  was 
the  speech  made  by  Logan,  which  is  so  fine  that  its 
authenticity  has  been  questioned,  but  it  is  now  establish- 
ed beyond  a  doubt,  by  the  testimony  of  Mr.  Jefferson. 
"  I  appeal  to  any  white  man  to  say,  if  ever  he  entered 
Logan's  cabin  hungry,  and  he  gave  him  not  meat  ?  if 
ever  he  came  cold,  and  naked,  and  he  clothed  him  not  ? 
During  the  course  of  the  long  last  bloody  war,  Logan 
remained  idle  in  his  cabin,  an  advocate  for  peace.  Such 
was  my  love  for  the  whites,  that  my  countrymen  pointed 
as  I  passed,  and  said,  '  Logan  is  the  friend  of  white  men.' 
I  had  even  thought  to  have  lived  with  you,  but  for  the 
injuries  of  one  man.     Colonel  Cressop,  the  last  spring,  in 


220  LECTURE    XVI. 

cold  blood,  and  unprovoked,  murdered  all  the  relations 
of  Logan ;  not  sparing  even  my  women  and  children : 
there  runs  not  a  drop  of  my  blood  in  the  veins  of  any 
living  creature !  This  called  on  me  for  revenge  :  I  have 
sought  it.  I  have  killed  many !  I  have  fully  glutted 
my  vengeance.  For  my  country,  I  rejoice  at  the  beams 
of  peace ;  but  do  not  harbor  a  thought  that  mine  is  the 
joy  of  fear :  Logan  never  felt  fear :  he  will  not  turn  on 
his  heel  to  save  his  life.  Who  is  there  to  mourn  for 
Logan  ?  not  one !" 

I  am  going  to  say  rather  an  odd  thing,  but  I  can  not 
help  thinking  that  the  severe  and  rigid  economy  of  a 
man  in  distress,  has  something  in  it  very  sublime,  espe- 
cially if  it  be  endured  for  any  length  of  time  serenely 
and  in  silence.  I  remember  a  very  striking  instance  of 
it  in  a  young  man,  since  dead ;  he  was  the  son  of  a  coun- 
try curate,  who  had  got  him  a  berth  on  board  a  man-of- 
war,  as  midshipman.  The  poor  curate  made  a  great  ef- 
fort for  his  son  ;  fitted  him  out  well  with  clothes,  and  gave 
him  £50  in  money.  The  first  week,  the  poor  boy  lost 
his  chest,  clothes,  money,  and  every  thing  he  had  in  the 
world.  The  ship  sailed  for  a  foreign  station ;  and  his 
loss  was  without  remedy.  He  immediately  quitted  his 
mess,  ceased  to  associate  with  the  other  midshipmen, 
who  were  the  sons  of  gentlemen ;  and  for  five  years, 
without  mentioning  it  to  his  parents — who  he  knew 
could  not  assist  him, — or  without  borrowing  a  farthing 
from  any  human  being,  without  a  single  murmur  or  com- 
plaint, did  that  poor  lad  endure  the  most  abject  and  de- 
grading poverty,  at  a  period  of  life  when  the  feelings  are 
most  alive  to  ridicule,  and  the  appetites  most  prone  to 
indulgence.  Now,  I  confess  I  am  a  mighty  advocate  for 
the  sublimity  of  such  long  and  patient  endurance.  If 
you  can  make  the  world  stare  and  look  on,  there,  you 
have  vanity,  or  compassion,  to  support  you  ;  but  to  bury 
all  your  wretchedness  in  your  own  mind, — to  resolve 
that  you  will  have  no  man's  pity,  wrhile  you  have  one 
effort  left  to  procure  his  respect, — to  harbor  no  mean 
thought  in  the  midst  of  abject  poverty,  but,  at  the  very 
time  you  are  surrounded  by  circumstances  of  humility 
and  depression,  to  found  a  spirit  of  modest  independ- 


ON    THE    SUBLIME.  221 

ence  upon  the  consciousness  of  having  always  acted 
well ; — this  is  a  sublime,  which,  though  it  is  found  in  the 
shade  and  retirement  of  life,  ought  to  be  held  up  to  the 
praises  of  men,  and  to  be  looked  upon  as  a  noble  model 
for  imitation. 

The  confidence  which  very  great  men  have  in  them- 
selves, partakes  of  this  feeling.  There  is  something  ex- 
tremely grand  and  imposing  in  their  firm  reliance  upon 
their  own  genius  ;  and  what  in  common  men  would  be 
the  height  of  presumption,  is  in  them,  not  only  tolerated, 
but  vehemently  and  justly  admired.  Such  is  the  answer 
of  Alexander  to  Parmenio  ; — Csesar  to  the  Pilot ; — Ma- 
rius  to  the  man  who  saw  him  sitting  on  the  ruins  of 
Carthage.  There  is  a  very  sublime  piece  of  insolence, 
which  Homer  has  put  into  the  mouth  of  Achilles.  He 
has  seized  upon  Lycaon,  and  is  going  to  put  him  to 
death.  The  young  man  prays  to  him,  in  the  most  hum- 
ble and  supplicating  manner,  to  spare  his  life.  "  Wretch!" 
says  Achilles,  "  do  you  fear  to  die  ?  do  you  complain  of 
death  ?  Look  at  me !  how  beautiful,  how  vast,  how 
brave  am  I ! — even  /  must  perish !  A  hero  was  my 
father,  a  goddess  produced  me,  and  yet  the  hour  will 
come,  be  it  morning,  or  evening,  or  noon,  when  even  I 
must  fall  by  the  arrow  or  the  spear !"  Lucullus,  when 
he  marched  up  to  Tigranocerta,  had  an  army  of  300,000 
men  to  attack.  What  was  the  conduct  of  Lucullus  ? 
He  did  not  go  about  to  his  officers  and  say,  "  Do  you 
think  I  had  better  attack  them  ?  or  what  do  you  think 
about  it  ?  I  have  really  a  great  mind  to  do  so."  His 
army  and  his  officers  were  disconcerted  with  their  num- 
bers. Lucullus,  the  very  moment  he  glanced  at  their 
position,  exclaimed,  "  We  have  them!"  It  happened 
to  be  on  one  of  those  days  which  the  Romans  had 
marked  out  in  their  calendar  as  unfortunate,  because  it 
had  formerly  been  memorable  by  defeats.  They  re- 
quested him  to  consider  this  well,  and  not  to  hazard  a 
battle  on  such  a  day.  "/will  put  it  among  the  fortunate 
days,"  said  he,  and  immediately  ordered  them  to  march. 
A  hundred  thousand  barbarians  fell  in  the  battle ;  with 
the  loss  of  five  Romans  killed,  and  a  hundred  wounded. 

The  calm  resignation  to  inevitable  fate,  equally  re- 


222  LECTURE    XVI. 

moved  from  insolence  and  fear,  and  which  is  so  peculiar 
to  great  minds,  is  to  be  classed  among  the  sublimer  feel- 
ings of  our  nature.  In  this  manner  Socrates  drank  the 
poison ;  the  three  hundred  perished  at  the  Straits  of 
Greece ;  so  died  the  Chancellor  More  on  the  scaffold, 
and  the  great  Lord  Falkland  in  the  field ;  and  in  the 
same  manner,  the  memorable  Lord  Strafford  pleaded 
before  his  enemies :  "And  now,  my  lords/' he  says,  "I 
thank  God  I  have  been  (by  his  blessing)  sufficiently  in- 
structed in  the  extreme  vanity  of  all  temporary  enjoy- 
ments, compared  to  the  importance  of  our  eternal  dura- 
tion; and  so,  my  lords,  even  so,  with  all  humility,  and 
all  tranquillity  of  mind,  I  submit  clearly  and  freely  to 
your  judgments  ;  and  whether  that  righteous  doom  shall 
be  to  life  or  death,  I  shall  repose  myself,  full  of  gratitude 
and  confidence,  in  the  arms  of  the  great  Author  of  my 
existence." 

"  Certainly,"  says  Whitelock  (with  his  usual  candor,) 
"  never  any  man  acted  such  a  part  on  such  a  theater, 
with  more  wisdom,  constancy,  and  eloquence ;  with 
greater  reason,  judgment,  and  temper  ;  and  with  a  bet- 
ter grace  in  all  his  words  and  actions, — than  did  this 
great  and  excellent  person :  and  he  moved  the  hearts 
of  all  his  auditors  (some  few  excepted)  to  pity  and  re- 
morse." 

All  these  men,  in  their  different  walks  of  life,  as  warriors, 
or  as  statesmen,  seemed,  at  the  approach  of  their  destiny,  to 
have  enveloped  themselves  in  their  own  greatness  ;  and 
to  have  been  lifted  up  above  us,  by  a  kind  of  serenity  to 
which  we  should  feel  it  impossible,  in  similar  situations, 
to  attain. 

I  have  been  thus  diffuse  upon  the  subject  of  the  sub- 
lime in  morals,  because  it  is  of  all  things  the  most  in- 
spiring and  useful,  to  contemplate  the  best  models  of  our 
own  species,  and  to  know  wrhat  those  limits  are,  to  which 
our  nature  really  does  extend ;  and  one  of  the  great  ad- 
vantages of  that  classical  education  in  which  we  are 
trained  in  this  country,  is,  that  it  sets  before  us  so  many 
examples  of  sublimity  in  action,  and  of  sublimity  in 
thought.  It  is  impossible  for  us,  in  the  first  and  most 
ardent  years  of  life,  to  read  the  great  actions  of  the  two 


ON    THE    SUBLIME.  223 

greatest  nations  in  the  world,  so  beautifully  related,  with- 
out catching,  ourselves,  some  taste  for  greatness,  and  a 
love  for  that  glory  which  is  gained  by  doing  greater  and 
better  things  than  other  men.  And  though  the  state  of 
order  and  discipline  into  which  the  world  is  brought, 
does  not  enable  a  man  frequently  to  do  such  things,  as 
every  day  produced  in  the  fierce  and  eventful  democ- 
raties  of  Greece  and  Rome,  yet,  to  love  that  which  is 
great,  is  the  best  security  for  hating  that  which  is  little ; 
the  best  cure  for  envy  ;  the  safest  antidote  for  revenge  ; 
the  surest  pledge  for  the  abhorrence  of  malice ;  the 
noblest  incitement  to  love  truth,  and  manly  independ- 
ence, and  honorable  labor, — -to  glory  in  spotless  inno- 
cence, and  build  up  the  system  of  life  upon  the  rock  of 
integrity. 

It  is  the  greatest  and  first  use  of  history,  to  show  us  the 
sublime  in  morals,  and  to  tell  us  what  great  men  have 
done  in  perilous  seasons.  Such  beings,  and  such  actions, 
dignify  our  nature,  and  breathe  into  us  a  virtuous  pride 
which  is  the  parent  of  every  good.  Wherever  you 
meet  with  them  in  the  page  of  history,  read  them,  mark 
them,  and  learn  from  them  how  to  live,  and  how  to  die  ! 
for  the  object  of  common  men,  is  only  to  live.  The 
object  of  such  men  as  I  have  spoken  of,  was  to  live 
grandly,  and  in  favor  with  their  own  difficult  spirits  :  to 
live,  if  in  war,  gloriously  ;  if  in  peace,  usefully,  justly,  and 
freely  !  ! 


LECTURE    XVII. 


ON  THE  FACULTIES  OF  ANIMALS,  AS  COMPARED  WITH 
THOSE  OF  MEN. 


I  confess  I  treat  on  this  subject  with  some  degree  of 
apprehension  and  reluctance ;  because,  I  should  be  very 
sorry  to  do  injustice  to  the  poor  brutes,  who  have  no 
professors  to  revenge  their  cause  by  lecturing  on  our 
faculties  :  and  at  the  same  time  I  know  there  is  a  very 
strong  anthropical  party,  who  view  all  eulogiums  on  the 
brute  creation  with  a  very  considerable  degree  of  sus- 
picion ;  and  look  upon  every  compliment  which  is  paid 
to  the  ape,  as  high  treason  to  the  dignity  of  man. 

There  may,  perhaps,  be  more  of  rashness  and  ill-fated 
security  in  my  opinion,  than  of  magnanimity  or  libe- 
rality ;  but  I  confess  I  feel  myself  so  much  at  my  ease 
about  the  superiority  of  mankind, — I  have  such  a  marked 
and  decided  contempt  for  the  understanding  of  every 
baboon  I  have  yet  seen, — I  feel  so  sure  that  the  blue  ape 
without  a  tail  will  never  rival  us  in  poetry,  painting,  and 
music, — that  I  see  no  reason  whatever,  why  justice  may 
not  be  done  to  the  few  fragments  of  soul,  and  tatters  of 
understanding,  which  they  may  really  possess.  I  have 
sometimes,  perhaps,  felt  a  little  uneasy  at  Exeter  'Change, 
from  contrasting  the  monkeys  with  the  'prentice-boys 
who  are  teasing  them  ;  but  a  few  pages  of  Locke,  or  a 
few  lines  of  Milton,  have  always  restored  me  to  tran- 
quillity, and  convinced  me  that  the  superiority  of  man 
had  nothing  to  fear. 

Philosophers  have  been  much  puzzled  about  the  essen- 
tial characteristics  of  brutes,  by  which  they  may  be 
distinguished  from  men.  Some  define  a  brute  to  be  an 
animal  that  never  laughs,  or   an   animal  incapable  of 


FACULTIES  OF  ANIMALS  AND  OF  MEN.      225 

laughter :  some  say  they  are  mute  animals.  The  Peri- 
patetics "allowed  them  a  sensitive  power,  but  denied 
them  a  rational  one.  The  Platonists  allowed  them  rea- 
son and  understanding;  though  in  a  degree  less  pure, 
and  less  refined,  than  that  of  men.  Lactantius  allows 
them  every  thing  which  men  have,  except  a  sense  of 
religion  :  and  some  skeptics  have  gone  so  far  as  to  say 
they  have  this  also.  Descartes  maintained  that  brutes 
are  mere  inanimate  machines,  absolutely  destitute,  not 
only  of  all  reason,  but  of  all  thought  and  reflection  ;  and 
that  all  their  actions  are  only  consequences  of  the 
exquisite  mechanism  of  their  bodies.  This  system,  how- 
ever, is  much  older  than  Descartes ;  it  was  borrowed  by 
him  from  Gomez  Pereira,  a  Spanish  physician,  who 
employed  thirty  years  in  composing  a  treatise  on  this 
subject,  which  he  very  affectionately  called  by  the  name 
of  his  father  and  mother — "  Antoniana  Margarita." 
Systems  and  theories,  however,  differ  very  materially  in 
their  importance,  according  to  the  parent  who  ushers 
them  into  the  world,  and  the  obscurity  or  notoriety  of 
the  name  to  which  they  happen  to  be  connected.  Poor 
Gomez  was  so  far  from  having  opponents,  that  he  had 
not  even  readers :  his  theory,  in  the  hands  of  Descartes, 
excited  a  controversy  which  reached  from  one  end  of 
Europe  to  the  other :  many,  who  maintained  the  oppo- 
site hypothesis  to  Descartes,  contended  that  brutes  are 
endowed  with  a  soul,  essentially  inferior  to  that  of  man  ; 
and  to  this  soul  some  have  impiously  allowed  immor- 
tality. But  the  most  curious  of  all  opinions,  respecting 
the  understanding  of  beasts,  is  that  advanced  by  Pere 
Bougeant,  a  Jesuit,  in  a  work  entitled  "  Philosophical 
Amusement  on  the  Language  of  Beasts."  In  this  book 
he  contends,  that  each  animal  is  inhabited  by  a  separate 
and  distinct  devil ;  that  not  only  this  was  the  case  with 
respect  to  cats,  which  have  long  been  known  to  be  very 
favorite  residences  of  familiar  spirits,  but  that  a  peculiar 
devil  swam  with  every  turbot,  grazed  with  every  ox, 
soared  with  every  lark,  dived  with  every  duck,  and  was 
roasted  with  every  chicken. 

The  most  common  notion  now  prevalent,  with  respect 
to  animals,  is,  that  they  are  guided  by  instinct ;  that  the 


226  LECTURE    XVII. 

discriminating  circumstance  between  the  minds  of  ani- 
mals and  of  men  is,  that  the  former  do  what 'they  do 
from  instinct,  the  latter  from  reason.  Now,  the  question 
is,  is  there  any  meaning  to  the  word  instinct  ?  what  is 
that  meaning  ?  and  what  is  the  distinction  between  in- 
stinct and  reason  ?  If  I  desire  to  do  a  certain  thing, 
adopt  certain  means  to  effect  it,  and  have  a  clear  and 
precise  notion  that  those  means  are  directly  subservient 
to  that  end, — there  I  act  from  reason  ;  but,  if  I  adopt 
means  subservient  to  the  end,  and  am  uniformly  found 
to  do  so,  and  am  not  in  the  least  degree  conscious  that 
these  means  are  subservient  to  the  end, — there  I  certainly 
do  act  from  some  principle  very  different  from  reason  ; 
and  to  which  principle,  it  is  as  convenient  to  give  the 
name  of  instinct,  as  any  other  name.  If  I  build  a  house 
for  my  family,  and  lay  it  out  into  different  apartments, 
separating  it  horizontally  with  floors,  and  give  the 
obvious  principles  on  which  I  have  done  so, — here  is 
plainly  an  invention  of  meaning,  and  an  application  of 
previous  experience,  which  any  body  would  call  by  the 
name  of  reason ;  but  if  I  am  detected  making  folding- 
doors  to  the  drawing-room,  putting  up  snug  shelves  in 
the  butler's  pantry,  and  making  the  whole  house  as 
convenient  as  possible,  and  it  is  quite  plain  at  the  same 
time  that  I  have  no  possible  motive  to  alledge  why  I  have 
done  these  things,  that  I  am  quite  ignorant  folding  doors 
are  pleasant  at  routs,  and  shelves  eminently  useful  to 
butlers,  for  the  more  orderly  and  decorous  arrangement 
of  glass  ware, — there,  it  is  very  plain  I  am  not  constituted 
as  other  men  are ;  that  I  am  not  applying  previous 
experience  to  new  cases, — not  arguing  that  what  has 
happened  before,  will  happen  again ;  but  that  I  am 
generically  different  from  all  others  of  my  species,  and 
that  my  mind  is  not  the  mind  of  man.  Bees,  it  is  well 
known,  construct  their  combs  with  small  cells  on  both 
sides,  fit  for  holding  their  store  of  honey,  and  for  receiv- 
ing their  young.  There  are  only  three  possible  figures 
of  the  cells,  which  can  make  them  all  equal  and  similar, 
without  any  useless  interstices  :  these  are,  the  equilateral 
triangle,  the  square,  and  the  regular  hexagon.  It  is 
well  known  to  mathematicians,  that  there  is  not  a  fourth 


FACULTIES  OF  ANIMALS  AND  OF  MEN.       227 

way  possible,  in  which  a  plane  may  be  cut  into  little 
spaces,  that  shall  be  equal,  similar,  and  regular,  without 
leaving  any  interstices.  Of  the  three,  the  hexagon  is 
the  most  proper  both  for  conveniency  and  strength ;  and 
accordingly,  bees — as  if  they  were  acquainted  with  these 
things — make  all  their  cells  regular  hexagons.  As  the 
combs  have  cells  on  both  sides,  the  cells  may  either  be 
exactly  opposite,  having  partition  against  partition, — or 
the  bottom  of  a  cell  may  rest  upon  the  partitions, 
between  the  cells,  on  the  other  side  ;  which  will  serve  as 
a  buttress  to  strengthen  it.  The  last  way  is  the  best  for 
strength;  accordingly,  the  bottom  of  each  cell  rests 
against  the  point  where  three  partitions  meet  on  the 
other  side,  which  gives  it  all  the  strength  possible.  The 
bottom  of  a  cell  may  either  be  one  plane  perpendicular 
to  the  side  partitions,  or  it  may  be  composed  of  several 
planes  meeting  in  a  solid  angle  in  the  middle  point.  It 
is  only  in  one  of  these  two  ways,  that  all  the  cells  can  be 
similar  without  losing  room;  and,  for  ihe  same  intention, 
the  planes  of  which  the  bottom  is  composed — if  there  be 
more  than  one — must  be  exactly  three  in  number,  and 
neither  more  nor  less.  It  has  been  demonstrated  also, 
that  by  making  the  bottom  to  consist  of  three  planes 
meeting  in  a  point  there  is  a  saving  of  materials  and 
labor, — by  no  means  inconsiderable.  The  bees,  as  if 
acquainted  with  the  principles  of  solid  geometry,  follow 
them  most  accurately  :  the  bottom  of  each  cell  being 
composed  of  three  planes,  which  make  obtuse  angles 
with  the  side  partitions,  and  with  one  another,  and  meet 
in  a  point  in  the  middle  of  the  bottom  ;  the  three  angles 
of  this  bottom,  being  supported  by  three  partitions  on  the 
other  side  of  the  comb,  and  the  point  of  it  by  the  common 
intersection  of  those  three  partitions. 

One  instance  more  of  the  mathematical  skill  displayed 
in  the  structure  of  a  honeycomb  deserves  to  be  men- 
tioned. It  is  a  curious  mathematical  problem,  at  what 
precise  angle  the  three  planes  which  compose  the  bottom 
of  a  cell  ought  to  meet,  in  order  to  make  the  greatest 
possible  saving,  or  the  least  expense  of  materials  and 
labor.  This  is  one  of  those  problems  belonging  to  the 
higher  parts  of  mathematics,  which  are  called  problems 


228  LECTURE    XVII. 

of  maxima  and  minima.  It  has  been  resolved  by  some 
mathematicians,  particularly  by  Mr.  Maclaurin,  by  a 
fluxionary  calculation,  which  is  to  be  found  in  the  ninth 
volume  of  the  "  Transactions  of  the  Royal  Society  of 
London."  He  has  determined  precisely  the  angle  re- 
quired ;  and  he  found  by  the  most  exact  mensuration  the 
subject  could  admit,  that  it  is  the  very  angle  in  which 
the  three  planes  in  the  bottom  of  the  cell  of  a  honey- 
comb do  actually  meet.  How  is  all  this  to  be  explained? 
Imitation  it  certainly  is  not ;  for,  after  every  old  bee  has 
been  killed,  you  may  take  the  honeycomb  and  hatch  a 
new  swarm  of  bees,  that  can  not  possibly  have  had  any 
communication  with,  or  instruction  from,  the  parents. 
The  young  of  every  animal — though  they  have  never 
seen  the  dam, — will  do  exactly  as  all  their  species  have 
done  before  them.  A  brood  of  young  ducks,  hatched 
under  a  hen,  take  to  the  water  in  spite  of  the  remon- 
strances and  terrors  of  their  spurious  parent.  All  the 
great  habitudes  of  every  species  of  animals,  have  repeat- 
edly been  proved  to  be  independent  of  imitation.  I  re- 
member Mr.  Stewart,  in  his  "  Lectures,"  quotes  an 
experiment  of  this  kind,  made  by  Sir  James  Hall  of 
Edinburgh,  who  has  distinguished  himself  so  much  by 
his  very  important  experiments  upon  the  chemistry  of 
mineralogy.  Sir  James  hatched  some  chickens  in  an 
oven  :  within  a  few  minutes  after  the  shell  was  broken, 
a  spider  was  turned  loose  before  this  very  youthful 
brood; — the  destroyer  of  flies  had  hardly  proceeded  a 
few  inches  before  he  was  descried  by  one  of  these  oven- 
born  chickens,  and,  at  one  peck  of  his  bill,  immediately 
devoured.  This  certainly  was  not  imitation.  A  female 
goat,  very  near  delivery,  died  ;  Galen  cut  out  the  young 
kid,  and  placed  before  it  a  bundle  of  hay,  a  bunch  of 
fruit,  and  a  pan  of  milk ;  the  young  kid  smelt  to  them 
all  very  attentively,  and  then  began  to  lap  the  milk. 
This  was  not  imitation.  And  what  is  commonly  and 
rightly  called  instinct,  can  not  be  explained  away,  under 
the  notion  of  its  being  imitation.  Nor  can  it  be  mere 
accident ;  because,  though  it  is  not  impossible  that  one 
swarm  of  bees  might  adopt  these  figures  and  measure- 
ments, without  knowing  their  importance,  it  is  not  to  be 


FACULTIES  OF  ANIMALS  AND  OF  MEN.       229 

believed  that  mere  accident  can  uniformly  produce  such 
extraordinary  effects.  The  warmest  admirers  of  honey, 
and  the  greatest  friends  to  bees,  will  never,  I  presume, 
contend  that  the  young  swarm,  who  begin  making 
honey  three  or  four  months  after  they  are  born,  and  im- 
mediately construct  these  mathematical  cells,  should, 
have  gained  their  geometrical  knowledge  as  we  gain 
ours,  and  in  three  months'  time  outstrip  Mr.  Maclaurin 
in  mathematics  as  much  as  they  did  in  making  honey. 
It  would  take  a  senior  wrangler  at  Cambridge  ten  hours 
a  day,  for  three  years  together,  to  know  enough  mathe- 
matics for  the  calculation  of  these  problems,  with  which 
not  only  every  queen  bee,  but  every  under-graduate 
grub,  is  acquainted  the  moment  it  is  born.  A  few  more 
instances  of  a  principle  of  action  among  animals,  which 
can  not  be  reason, — and  I  have  done  upon  this  part  of 
the  subject.  If  you  shake  caterpillars  off  a  tree  in  every 
direction,  they  instantly  turn  round  and  climb  up,  though 
they  had  never  formerly  been  on  the  surface  of  the 
ground.  This  is  a  very  striking  instance  of  instinct. 
The  caterpillar  finds  its  food,  and  is  nourished,  upon  the 
tree,  and  not  upon  the  ground  ;  but  surely  the  caterpillar 
can  never  tell  that  such  an  exertion  is  necessary  to  its 
salvation  ;  and  therefore,  it  acts  not  from  rational  motives, 
but  from  blind  impulse.  Ants  and  beavers  lay  up  maga- 
zines. Where  do  they  get  their  knowledge  that  it  will 
not  be  so  easy  to  collect  food  in  rainy  weather  as  it  is  in 
the  summer  ?  Men  and  women  know  these  things,  be- 
cause their  grandpapas  and  grandmammas  have  told  them 
so  ;  ants,  hatched  from  the  egg  artificially,  or  birds  hatch- 
ed in  this  manner,  have  all  this  knowledge  by  intuition, 
without  the  smallest  communication  with  any  of  their 
relations.  Now,  observe  what  the  solitary  wasp  does  ; 
she  digs  several  holes  in  the  sand,  in  each  of  which  she 
deposits  an  egg,  though  she  certainly  knows  not  that 
an  animal  is  deposited  in  that  egg, — and  still  less  that 
this  animal  must  be  nourished  with  other  animals.  She 
collects  a  few  green  flies,  rolls  them  up  neatly  in  sepa- 
rate parcels  (like  Bologna  sausages),  and  stuffs  one 
parcel  into  each  hole  where  an  egg  is  deposited.  When 
the  wasp-worm  is  hatched,  it  finds  a  store  of  provisions 


230  LECTURE    XVII. 

ready  made  ;  and  what  is  most  curious,  the  quantity 
allotted  to  each  is  exactly  sufficient  to  support  it,  till  it 
attains  the  period  of  wasphood,  and  can  provide  for 
itself.  This  instinct  of  the  parent  wasp  is  the  more  re- 
markable, as  it  does  not  feed  upon  flesh  itself.  Here 
the  little  creature  has  never  seen  its  parent ;  for,  by  the 
time  it  is  born,  the  parent  is  always  eaten  by  sparrows : 
and  yet,  without  the  slightest  education,  or  previous  ex- 
perience, it  does  every  thing  that  the  parent  did  before 
it.  Now  the  objectors  to  the  doctrine  of  instinct  may 
say  what  they  please,  but  young  tailors  have  no  intuitive 
mode  of  making  pantaloons; — a  new-born  mercer  can 
not  measure  diaper ; — Nature  teaches  a  cook's  daughter 
nothing  about  sippets.  All  these  things  require  with 
us  seven  years'  apprenticeship;  but  insects  are  like 
Moliere's  persons  of  quality, — they  know  every  thing 
(as  Moliere  says),  without  having  learned  any  thing. 
"  Les  gens  de  qualite  savent  tout,  sans  avoir  rien  appris." 
The  most  strenuous  objector  to  these  histories  of  the 
singular  and  untaught  instincts  of  animals,  is  the  Comte 
de  Buffon ;  and  he  has  been  particularly  severe  upon 
bees,  whose  reputation  for  architecture  and  civil  economy 
he  has  attempted  entirely  to  overthrow.  Of  Maclaurin's 
discovery  of  the  angle,  he  takes  no  notice,  and  returns 
no  answer  to  it ;  neither  does  he  condescend  to  notice 
the  particular  manner  in  which  the  comb  is  placed  back 
to  back.  His  observations  upon  the  hexagonal  form  of 
the  cell,  appears  to  me,  I  confess,  for  so  great  a  man, 
very  singular.  "  The  hexagonal  form  of  the  cells  of  the 
bee,  which  have  been  the  subject  of  so  much  admiration, 
furnish  an  additional  proof  of  the  stupidity  of  these  in- 
sects. This  figure,  though  extremely  regular,  is  nothing 
but  a  mechanical  result,  which  is  often  exhibited  in  the 
rudest  productions  of  nature.  Crystals,  and  several 
other  stones,  as  well  as  particular  salts,  constantly  assume 
this  figure.  The  small  scales  in  the  skin  of  the  roussete, 
or  great  Ternate  bat,  are  hexagonal,  because  each  scale 
when  growing  obstructs  the  progress  of  its  neighbor,  and 
tends  to  occupy  as  much  space  as  possible.  We  likewise 
find  these  hexagons  in  the  second  stomachs  of  some 
ruminating   animals ;    in   certain   seeds,   capsules,    and 


FACULTIES    OF    ANIMALS    AND    OF    MEN.  231 

flowers.  If  we  fill  a  vessel  with  cylindrical  grain,  and, 
after  filling  up  the  interstices  with  water,  shut  it  close 
up,  and  boil  the  water,  all  these  cylinders  will  become 
hexagonal  columns.  The  reason  is  obvious,  and  purely 
mechanical.  Each  cylindrical  grain  tends,  by  its  swell- 
ing, to  occupy  as  much  space  as  possible  in  the  limited 
dimensions  of  the  hive:  and  therefore,  as  the  bodies  of 
the  bees  are  cylindrical,  they  must  necessarily  make 
their  cells  hexagonal,  from  the  reciprocal  obstruction 
they  give  to  each  other." 

In  the  case  of  the  boiled  grain,  the  vessel  is  close ;  but 
the  comb,  I  fancy,  in  common  bee-hives,  by  no  means 
extends  itself  through  the  whole  dimensions  of  the  straw 
hut ;  therefore,  there  is  no  pressure  on  the  outside : 
neither  do  I  see  how  there  is  any  pressure  from  within, 
because  the  cell  is  made  before  the  young  bee  is  put  in 
it,  and  the  very  first  plan  and  groundwork  of  each  cell 
is  the  hexagon,  long  before  the  pressure  of  body  in  the 
old  bee  can  effect  it.  Besides,  it  really  seems  quite 
ludicrous  to  suppose,  that  such  extraordinary  regularity 
can  be  produced  by  the  accidental  pushing  and  scram- 
bling of  ten  thousand  insects,  working  one  at  one  moment 
at  this  cell,  then  flying  off  to  a  cowslip,  then  going  to 
another  cell,  then  appointed  to  digest  wax  for  the  public 
good.  Make  the  slightest  inequality  in  the  pushing,  let 
one  bee  neglect  to  scramble  for  a  single  instant,  or  let 
one  be  scraping  away  while  the  other  is  adding,  and  the 
whole  regularity  is  immediately  destroyed,  without  the 
possibility  of  restoring  it.  And  if  they  did  push  and 
scramble  with  this  wonderful  meter  and  rhythm,  instead 
of  destroying  the  wonder  of  the  insect,  it  would  be 
increasing  it.  If  there  be  any  necessary  connection 
between  the  hexagon  and  this  origin  of  its  formation, 
why  do  not  wasps  and  ants  deposit  their  nests  in  hex- 
agons as  perfect  ?  or  why  does  not  the  insect  that  works 
the  coral  ?  The  real  fact  seems  to  be,  that  Nature  has 
originally  determined,  with  scrupulous  precision,  how 
every  animal  shall  breed  and  build  ;  and  has  confined 
them  to  a  particular  shape,  as  much  as  to  a  particular 
position.  The  wasp  takes  one  form,  the  bee  another, 
the  chaffinch  another,  the  robin-redbreast  another.    Na- 


232  LECTURE    XVII. 

ture  has  chosen  that  some  animals  should  be  more 
accurate  and  fine  in  their  habits ;  others,  more  careless, 
lax,  and  inattentive.  Upon  some,  she  seems  to  have 
bestowed  vast  attention :  and  to  have  sketched  out 
others  in  a  moment,  and  turned  them  adrift.  The  house- 
fly skims  about,  perches  upon  a  window  or  a  nose,  break- 
fasts and  sups  with  you,  lays  his  eggs  upon  your  white 
cotton  stockings,  runs  into  the  first  hole  in  the  wall  when 
it  is  cold,  and  perishes  with  as  much  unconcern  as  he 
lives.  The  bees  (as  is  commonly  said  of  them,  and  as 
is  strictly  true)  do  live  together  in  a  city,  with  a  com- 
mon object.  It  has  pleased  their  Maker,  that  their  food 
should  be  prepared  with  considerable  labor  and  art ;  and 
their  houses  constructed  with  the  greatest  attention  to 
durability  and  convenience.  What  is  there  in  all  this, 
that  should  make  Buffon  so  angry  or  skeptical  ?  Can 
not  He  who  made  man,  make  a  miracle  one  thousand 
times  less  miraculous  than  man  ?  If  He  have  implanted 
in  our  nature  one  or  two  stimuli  which  are  sufficient,  in 
the  progress  of  life,  gradually  to  unfold  the  soul  that  lies 
hidden  within  us,  why  may  He  not  have  given  to  another 
class  of  animals  a  great  step  at  first,  if  He  resolved  that 
that  should  be  the  only  progress  they  ever  were  to  make 
in  their  momentary  existence  ?  But  there  is  no  use  in 
putting  questions  why  Providence  may  not  have  done 
this,  or  done  that.  Providence  has  done  it!  There 
are  the  bees,  and  there  the  comb  ; — there  are  the  rafters, 
and  there  is  the  floor,  and  there  is  Colin  Maclaurin,  with 
his  angle !  and  get  rid  of  it  how  you  can ;  and  if  you 
are  determined  to  get  rid  of  it,  you  had  better  account 
for  the  formation  of  a  hive  in  some  more  sensible  man- 
ner, than  the  pushing  and  scrambling  of  Buffon.  When 
I  call  that  principle  upon  which  the  bees  or  any  other 
animals  proceed  to  their  labors,  the  principle  of  instinct, 
I  only  mean  to  say  it  is  not  a  principle  of  reason.  How- 
ever the  knowledge  is  gained,  it  is  not  gained  as  our 
knowledge  is  gained.  It  is  not  gained  by  experience,  or 
imitation,  for  I  have  cited  cases  of  birds  and  bees  that 
have  never  seen  nest,  or  cell, — who  have  made  one  and 
the  other,  as  if  they  were  perfectly  acquainted  with  them. 
It  can  not  be  invention,  or  the  adaptation  of  means  to 


FACULTIES    OF    ANIMALS    AND    OF    MEN.  233 

ends ;  because,  as  the  animal  works  before  he  knows 
what  event  is  going  to  happen,  he  can  not  know  what 
the  end  is,  to  which  he  is  accommodating  the  means : 
and  if  he  be  actuated  by  any  other  principle  than  these, 
the  generation  of  ideas  in  animals  is  (contrary  to  the 
doctrine  of  Condillac)  very  different  from  the  generation 
of  ideas  in  men. 

All  the  wonderful  instincts  of  animals,  which,  in  my 
humble  opinion,  are  proved  beyond  a  doubt,  and  the 
belief  in  which  has  not  decreased  with  the  increase  of 
science  and  investigation, — all  these  instincts  are  given 
them  only  for  the  combination  or  preservation  of  their 
species.  If  they  had  not  these  instincts,  they  would  be 
swept  off  the  earth  in  an  instant.  This  bee,  that  under- 
stands architecture  so  well,  is  as  stupid  as  a  pebble- 
stone, out  of  his  own  particular  business  of  making 
honey ;  and,  with  all  his  talents,  he  only  exists  that  boys 
may  eat  his  labors,  and  poets  sing  about  them.  Ut  pueris 
placeas  et  declamatio  fias .  A  peasant  girl  of  ten  years 
old,  puts  the  whole  republic  to  death  with  a  little  smoke  ; 
their  palaces  are  turned  into  candles,  and  every  clergy- 
man's wife  makes  mead-wine  of  the  honey ;  and  there  is 
an  end  of  the  glory  and  wisdom  of  the  bees !  Whereas, 
man  has  talents  that  have  no  sort  of  reference  to  his 
existence  ;  and  without  which,  his  species  might  remain 
upon  earth  in  the  same  safety  as  if  they  had  them  not. 
The  bee  works  at  that  particular  angle  which  saves 
most  time  and  labor ;  and  the  boasted  edifice  he  is  con- 
structing is  only  for  his  egg :  but  Somerset  House,  and 
Blenheim,  and  the  Louvre,  have  nothing  to  do  with 
breeding.  Epic  poems,  and  Apollo  Belvideres,  and 
Venus  de  Medicis,  have  nothing  to  do  with  living  and 
eating.  We  might  have  discovered  pig-nuts  without 
the  Royal  Society,  and  gathered  acorns  without  reason- 
ing about  curves  of  the  ninth  order.  The  immense 
superfluity  of  talent  given  to  man,  which  has  no  bearing 
upon  animal  life,  which  has  nothing  to  do  with  the  mere 
preservation  of  existence,  is  one  very  distinguishing  cir- 
cumstance in  this  comparison.  There  is  no  other  animal 
but  man  to  whom  mind  appears  to  be  given  for  any 
other  purpose  than  the  preservation  of  body. 


234  LECTURE    XVII. 

If  I  am  right  in  explaining  the  meaning  of  instinct,  as 
distinguished  from  reason,  and  right  in  saying  that  ani- 
mals are  guided  by  it,  a  question  very  naturally  arises, 
how  far  men  are  guided  by  it  themselves.  It  is  a  ques- 
tion of  great  difficulty  and  subtilty,  which  it  would  be 
very  tedious  to  investigate  with  the  attention  its  intricacy 
would  require.  When  Locke  so  successfully  attacked 
the  doctrine  of  innate  ideas,  and  innate  principles  of 
speculative  truth,  he  was  thought  by  many  to  have  over- 
turned all  innate  principles  whatever ;  to  have  divested 
the  human  mind  of  every  passion,  affection,  and  instinct, 
and  to  have  left  in  it  nothing  but  the  powers  of  memory, 
sensation,  and  intellect.  Hence  arose  many  philosophers 
at  home  and  abroad,  who  maintained,  upon  the  principles 
of  Locke,  that  in  the  human  mind  there  are  no  instincts, 
but  that  every  thing  which  had  usually  been  called  by 
that  name  is  resolvable  into  association  and  habit.  This 
doctrine  was  attacked  by  Lord  Shaftesbury,  who  intro- 
duced into  the  theory  of  mind,  as  faculties  derived  from 
nature,  a  sense  of  beauty,  a  sense  of  honor,  and  a  sense 
of  ridicule  ;  and  these  he  considered  as  the  test  of  a  spec- 
ulative truth  and  moral  rectitude.  His  lordship's  prin- 
ciples were  in  part  adopted  by  Professor  Hutchinson,  of 
Glasgow,  who  published  a  system  of  moral  philosophy, 
founded  upon  a  sense  of  instinct,  to  which  he  gave  the 
name  of  the  moral  sense  ;  and  the  undoubted  merit  of  his 
book  procured  him  many  followers.  It  being  now  sup- 
posed that  the  human  mind  was  endowed  with  instinct- 
ive principles  of  action,  a  sect  of  very  lazy  philosophers 
arose,  who  found  it  convenient  to  refer  every  phenom- 
enon to  a  separate  instinct.  Immediately  we  had  the 
fighting  instinct,  the  loving  instinct,  the  educating  in- 
stinct, the  hoarding  instinct,  the  cheating  instinct,  and 
even  the  sneezing  instinct.  The  most  able  refuter  of 
these  instincts  is  Dr.  Priestley  ;  who  maintains,  with  the 
earliest  disciples  of  Locke,  that  we  have  from  nature  no 
innate  sense  of  truth, — that  even  the  action  of  sucking  in 
new-born  infants  is  to  be  accounted  for  upon  principles 
of  mechanism.  The  question  is  a  very  difficult  one,  and 
I  rather  decline  entering  into  a  long  dissertation  upon 
suckling,  in  this  Institution ;  but  I  believe  Dr.  Hartley  is 


FACULTIES  OF  ANIMALS  AND  OF  MEN.       235 

in  the  right,  and  that  it  would  not  be  easy  to  show  any- 
clear  case  of  instinct  among  men ;  and  that  children 
suckle  first  mechanically,  then  receive  pleasure  from  it, 
then  associate  the  action  with  the  pleasure,  and  then  do 
it  from  appetite.  There  is  an  extremely  good  article 
upon  the  subject  of  instinct  in  the  Scotch  Encyclopaedia, 
in  which  Dr.  Reid  is  very  justly  censured  for  the  con- 
fusion he  has  made,  in  treating  of  the  doctrine  of  instinct. 
If  a  man  swallow  his  food,  all  the  requisite  motions  of 
nerves  and  muscles  take  place  in  their  proper  order, 
though  the  man  neither  knows,  nor  wills,  any  thing 
about  them.  Breathing,  according  to  the  Doctor,  de- 
pends upon  instinct.  When  a  man  is  tumbling  off  his 
horse,  and  makes  an  effort  to  recover  himself,  he  regains 
his  saddle  by  instinct,  according  to  Dr.  Reid.  Breathing, 
with  due  submission  to  Dr.  Reid,  is  a  mere  case  of 
mechanism,  with  which  the  mind  has  nothing  to  do.  If 
you  recover  yourself  when  you  fall,  your  motion  depends 
upon  mere  habit  and  association ;  the  muscles  that  act 
in  swallowing,  are,  according  to  the  Hartleian  theory, 
and  in  all  probability,  moved  first  mechanically,  then  by 
volition.  How  it  comes  about,  that  the  will  can  ever 
move  any  part  of  the  body, — that  mind  can  ever  act 
upon  matter, — is  another  question.  That  phenomenon  is 
common  to  almost  every  description  of  animate  beings  ; 
but  it  is  a  great  abuse  of  terms  to  call  it  by  the  name  of 
instinct.  Actions  performed  with  a  view  to  accomplish 
a  certain  end,  are  rational.  Actions  performed  without 
the  spontaneity  of  the  agent,  are  automatic.  Actions 
regularly  performed  without  a  view  to  the  consequences 
they  produce,  are  instinctive.  Upon  these  distinctions, 
every  discussion  upon  human  and  animal  faculties  must 
be  grounded. 

One  of  the  best  attacks  made  upon  the  doctrine  of  in- 
stinct, is  by  Dr.  Darwin :  but  he  fights  too  much  against 
common  experience,  to  combat  with  much  success.  One 
of  Dr.  Darwin's  objections  to  this  doctrine  of  instinct  is, 
that  the  instincts  of  animals  bend  to  circumstances, 
which,  if  they  were  arbitrary  admonitions  of  nature,  they 
would  not  do.  Our  domestic  birds,  that  are  plentifully 
supplied   through  the  year  with  their  adapted  food,  and 


236  LECTURE    XVII. 

are  covered  by  houses  from  the  inclemency  of  the 
weather,  lay  their  eggs  at  any  season  ;  which  evinces 
that  the  spring  of  the  year  is  not  pointed  out  to  them, 
says  Dr.  Darwin,  by  a  necessary  instinct.  Now  I  con- 
fess, to  me,  this  fact  points  precisely  to  an  opposite 
inference.  What  is  the  instinct  ?  To  hatch  their  young 
at  a  season  of  the  year  when  the  weather  is  mild,  and 
when  food  is  plenty.  Nature  knows  nothing  about  the 
Golden  Letter ;  she  never  looks  into  the  almanac,  and  is 
quite  ignorant  when  Easter  falls ;  but  she  prompts  the 
bird  to  hatch  her  young,  by  those  different  feelings  of 
body,  which  copious  food,  and  genial  warmth,  produce. 
They  are  the  feelings  which  precede  the  instinctive  ac- 
tion :  and  if  you  make  perpetual  spring  to  the  animal  all 
the  year  round,  similar  feelings  produce  similar  instincts  ; 
and,  instead  of  refuting  the  supposition  that  the  animal 
is  under  the  influence  of  instinct,  powerfully  confirm  it. 
Dr.  Darwin's  mistake  proceeds  from  this  :  he  supposes 
Nature  intended  birds  to  hatch  in  April  or  May  ;  where- 
as, Nature  intended  they  should  hatch  when  they  are 
warm,  and  well  fed ;  which,  in  a  state  of  nature,  they  are 
in  those  months ;  but  which,  when  protected  by  man,  in 
order  that  they  may  be  eaten,  they  are  at  all  times.  It 
would  be  just  as  rational  to  say,  that  Nature  did  not  in- 
tend the  production  of  green  peas  to  depend  upon  the 
humid  warmth  of  the  spring,  because  the  humid  warmth 
of  the  spring  is  counterfeited  in  hot-houses,  and  a  dish  of 
peas  is  produced  in  December,  to  the  astonishment  of 
ordinary  understandings,  and  to  the  endless  glory  of  the 
lady  at  whose  table  they  are  displayed. 

In  the  same  manner  the  rabbit  digs  a  burrow  in  his 
wild  state.  In  his  tame  state,  he  spares  himself  that 
trouble.  But  to  this,  which  delights  Dr.  Darwin  so  very 
highly,  I  have  two  answers  :  a  tame  rabbit,  in  all  proba- 
bility, does  not  burrow  in  the  earth,  because  he  is  shut 
up  in  a  deal  box,  and  kept  in  a  garret ;  and  if  he  refuse 
to  burrow,  though  turned  out,  the  explanation  of  this 
change  in  his  instincts  is  accounted  for  precisely  upon 
the  same  principles  as  the  last.  Nature  does  not  at  once 
put  the  animal  upon  making  a  burrow  ;  but  it  impels  it  to 
do  that  thing  by  some  previous  feeling  of  body  or  mind, 


FACULTIES    OF    ANIMALS    AND    OF    MEN.  237 

by  hunger,  by  cold,  by  fear,  or  by  the  change  of  feelings 
in  the  body,  when  about  to  produce  its  young.  You 
change  the  feelings  which  by  the  law  of  nature  precede 
the  action,  and  then  the  action  is  not  performed.  You 
may  very  likely  discover  some  moral  affection,  or  some 
change  in  the  body,  which  precedes  all  instinctive  mo- 
tions ;  but  the  difficulty  is  still  as  great  as  it  was  before. 
Why  does  cold  make  the  rabbit  dig  a  burrow  ?  Why 
does  warmth  induce  the  bird  to  build  a  nest  after  that 
ancient  model  of  nests  which  it  has  never  seen  ?  Such 
things  do  not  occur  in  our  species.  We  must,  therefore, 
find  for  them  some  other  appellation  than  that  of  reason, 
by  which  all  our  actions  are  swayed. 

The  most  curious  instance  of  a  change  of  instinct  is 
mentioned  by  Darwin.  The  bees  carried  over  to  Bar- 
badoes  and  the  Western  Isles,  ceased  to  lay  up  any 
honey  after  the  first  year ;  as  they  found  it  not  useful  to 
them.  They  found  the  weather  so  fine  and  materials  for 
making  honey  so  plentiful,  that  they  quitted  their  grave, 
prudent,  and  mercantile  character,  became  exceedingly 
profligate  and  debauched,  eat  up  their  capital,  resolved 
to  work  no  more,  and  amused  themselves  by  flying  about 
the  sugar-houses,  and  stinging  the  blacks.  The  fact  is, 
that  by  putting  animals  in  different  situations,  you  may 
change,  and  even  reverse,  any  of  their  original  propensi- 
ties. Spallanzani  brought  up  an  eagle  upon  bread  and 
milk,  and  fed  a  dove  on  raw  beef.  The  circumstances 
by  which  an  animal  is  surrounded,  impel  him  to  do  so 
and  so,  by  the  changes  they  produce  in  his  body  and 
mind.  Alter  those  circumstances,  and  he  no  longer 
does  as  he  did  before.  This,  instead  of  disproving  the 
existence  of  an  instinct,  only  points  out  the  causes  on 
which  it  depends.  Many  actions  of  animals  have  been 
mistaken  for  instinctive,  which  are  not  so  ;  or,  rather, 
the  object  for  which  they  act  has  been  mistaken.  It  is 
supposed  that  ants  lay  up  their  magazines  against  the 
winter:  "but  ants,"  says  Buffbn,  "are  torpid  in  the  win- 
ter, and  don't  eat  at  all ;  therefore,  what  is  the  use  of 
their  magazines  ?"  Why,  this  is  the  use  of  their  maga- 
zines ;  that  there  come  often  enough,  before  the  season 
of  their  torpor,  three  or  four  rainy  days,  when  they  can 


238  LECTURE    XVII. 

not  venture  out  to  get  any  food,  and  then  their  mag- 
azine is  of  importance.  Besides,  the  Count  should 
have  told  us  whether  they  do  not  revive  again  before 
the  provisions  on  which  they  subsist ;  if  they  do,  there  is 
another  reason  why  they  should  have  a  stock  in  hand. 
Neither  does  it  disprove  the  existence  of  instinct,  be- 
cause the  instinct  is  sometimes  not  so  fine  and  so  mi- 
nute as  might  have  been  expected,  or  was  supposed. 
"  The  provisions  of  the  ant,  of  the  field-mouse,  and  of 
the  bee,"  says  BufFon,  "  are  discovered  to  be  only  use- 
less and  disproportioned  masses,  collected  without  any 
view  to  futurity;  and  the  minute  and  particular  laws 
of  their  pretended  foresight  are  reduced  to  the  general 
and  real  law  of  feeling."  All  that  this  objection  amounts 
to  is,  that  Nature  has  not  impelled  these  animals  to  col- 
lect a  certain  quantity  avoirdupois ;  that  they  are  taught 
to  collect,  and  that  the  impulse  only  operates  within 
gross  limits,  but  still  with  sufficient  precision  for  the 
preservation  of  the  animal.  So  the  instinct  of  a  bird  to 
sit  upon  eggs  exists,  though  it  is  given  very  grossly,  for 
it  will  sit  upon  a  chalk-stone  like  an  egg.  The  instinct 
is  to  foster,  with  the  heat  of  its  body,  that  which  it  pro- 
duces. In  the  absence  of  the  bird,  you  put  in  that  which 
resembles  its  production ;  the  bird  has  no  other  mode  of 
judging,  but  by  the  eye, — the  eye  is  deceived.  This 
only  proves  that  the  instinct  is  gross,  not  that  it  does  not 
exist.  But  while  I  am  talking  about  the  instincts  of 
ducks  and  rabbits,  a  certain  instinct,  very  valuable  in  a 
professor,  admonishes  me  that  I  am  tiring  my  audience, 
and  that  it  is  time  to  put  an  end  to  my  lecture.  The 
enemies  of  moral  philosophy  may,  perhaps,  say  this  feel- 
ing is  experience,  and  not  instinct ;  however,  be  it  what 
it  may,  I  shall  obey  it,  and  conclude  the  subject  at  our 
next  meeting. 


LECTURE    XVIIL 

ON  THE  FACULTIES  OF  BEASTS. 

Before  I  proceed  upon  the  body  of  this  lecture,  I  wish 
to  state,  by  anticipation,  the  doctrines  it  will  contain ; 
and  this  I  shall  do  very  shortly,  reserving  the  proof  for 
its  proper  place.  Animals  are  not  mere  machines,  like 
clocks  and  watches.  It  is  a  very  dangerous  doctrine  to 
assert,  that  so  much  apparent  choice  and  deliberation 
can  exist  in  mere  matter.  If  they  are  not  merely  mate- 
rial (like  machines  of  human  invention),  they  must  be  a 
composition  of  mind  and  matter.  There  are  observable 
in  the  minds  of  brutes,  faint  traces  and  rudiments  of  the 
human  faculties.  This  position  has  been  maintained  by 
Reid,  Locke,  Hartley,  Stewart,  and  all  the  best  writers 
on  these  subjects.  If  man  were  a  solitary  animal,  like 
a  lion  or  a  bear,  he  would  not  be  so  superior  to  all  ani- 
mals as  he  is.  If  he  had  the  hoof  of  oxen  instead  of 
hands,  he  would  not  be  so  superior :  neither  would  he, 
if  he  had  less  perfect  organs  of  speech  ;  nor  if  his  life 
were  confined  to  a  very  few  years,  instead  of  being  ex- 
tended to  seventy.  But  all  these  things  will  not  do  by 
any  means  alone,  as  the  degraders  of  human  nature  have 
said ;  for  there  are  some  animals,  which  very  nearly 
possess  all  these  advantages,  and  yet  are  perfectly  con- 
temptible, when  compared  even  to  the  lowest  of  men. 
But  the  great  source  of  man's  superiority  is,  the  immense 
and  immeasurable  disproportion  of  those  faculties,  of 
which  Nature  has  given  the  mere  rudiments  to  brutes ; 
that  this  disproportion  has  made  man  a  speculative  ani- 
mal, even  where  his  mere  existence  is  not  concerned ; 
that  it  has  made  him  a  progressive  animal  ;  that  it  has 
made  him  a  religious  animal ;  and  that  upon  that  mere 


240  LECTURE    XVIII. 

superiority,  and  on  the  very  principle  that  the  chain  of 
mind  and  spirit  terminates  here  with  man,  the  best  and 
the  most  irrefragable  arguments  for  the  immortality  of 
the  soul  are  founded,  which  natural  religion  can  afford : 
that,  independent  of  revelation,  it  would  be  impossible 
not  to  perceive  that  man  is  the  object  of  the  creation, 
and  that  he,  and  he  alone,  is  reserved  for  another  and  a 
better  state  of  existence.  These  are  my  principles,  in 
which  if  any  man  here  present  differ  from  me,  I  trust  at 
least  he  will  have  the  kindness  and  the  politeness  to 
hear  me. 

There  is  another  circumstance,  very  decisive  of  the 
nature  of  instinct,  and  which  goes  strongly  to  show  it  is 
something  very  different  from  reason.  I  mean  the  uni- 
formity of  actions  in  animals.  The  bees  now  build  ex- 
actly as  they  built  in  the  time  of  Homer ;  the  bear  is  as 
ignorant  of  good  manners  as  he  was  two  thousand  years 
past ;  and  the  baboon  is  still  as  unable  to  read  and  write, 
as  persons  of  honor  and  quality  were  in  the  time  of 
Queen  Elizabeth.  Of  the  improvements  made  by  the 
insect  tribe,  we  can  not  speak  with  much  certainty ;  and 
the  advocates  for  the  perfectibility  of  animals,  tell  us, 
it  is  impossible  that  ants'  nests  may  be  laid  out  with 
much  greater  regularity  than  they  used  to  be,  and  that 
experience  may  have  taught  them  many  methods  of 
draining  off  water,  and  preventing  the  growth  of  ears 
of  barley.  It  certainly  may,  but  we  have  no  sort  of 
proof  that  it  does;  and  the  analogy  of  all  large  ani- 
mals, whose  economy  we  are  perfectly  acquainted 
with,  and  can  easily  observe,  is  against  the  supposi- 
tion. Neither  is  it  from  any  lack  of  inconveniences, 
nor  any  extraordinary  contentedness  with  their  situ- 
ation, that  any  species  of  animals  remains  in  such  a 
state  of  sameness.  The  wolf  often  kills  twenty  times 
as  much  as  he  wants  ;  and  if  he  could  hit  upon  any  means 
of  preserving  his  superfluous  plunder,  he  would  not  per- 
ish of  hunger  so  often  as  he  does.  To  lay  traps  for  the 
hunters,  and  to  eat  them  as  they  were  caught,  would  be 
far  preferable  to  all  those  animals  who  are  the  cause, 
and  the  contents,  of  traps  themselves.  Animals,  like 
men,  are  goaded  by  wants  and  sufferings  ;  but,  contrary 


ON  THE  FACULTIES  OF  BEASTS.  241 

to  the  nature  of  men,  they  do  not  overcome,  but  endure 
them.  The  flesh  of  the  savage  was  originally  as  strong 
a  temptation  to  the  bear,  as  the  flesh  of  the  bear  was  to 
the  savage.  The  wants  of  the  one  impelled  him  to  in- 
vention ;  the  other  retained  his  original  stupidity,  in  spite 
of  his  wants.  There  are  some  few  and  inconsiderable 
instances  of  tribes  of  animals  making  some  slight  change 
in  their  habits,  to  adapt  themselves  to  any  new  situation 
in  which  they  may  be  placed ;  but  these  changes  are 
very  little  ameliorative  of  their  condition,  and  by  no 
means  go  to  destroy  the  supposition  of  their  being  di- 
rected in  many  instances  by  a  mere  instinct.  This 
sameness  of  habits  in  animals  does  not  demonstrate  that 
they  are  not  guided  by  reason,  but  it  renders  it  in  the 
highest  degree  improbable  that  they  should  be.  It  is  not 
quite  impossible,  that  animals  resolving  to  build  a  nest, 
should  for  two  thousand  years  build  precisely  in  the 
same  manner,  and  that  this  structure  should  be  equally 
resorted  to,  by  those  who  have,  and  who  have  not,  seen 
the  model  of  the  nest ; — it  is  not  impossible,  but  it  is  so 
contrary  to  all  former  experience,  that  it  certainly  gives 
us  no  relief  from  the  pain  of  being  forced  to  believe  in 
instinct.  But  the  Chinese  are  stationary,  and  so  are  the 
Hindoos, — they  are  now  exactly  what  they  were  twenty 
centuries  ago.  Certainly  they  are  :  but,  then,  they  are 
so  from  religious  prejudice,  transmitted  from  parent  to 
child ;  and  if  it  can  be  proved  (which  it  can  not),  that 
bees  and  ants  only  gain  their  habits  from  old  bees  and 
ants,  I  admit  the  whole  question  of  instinct  is  very  ma- 
terially changed  :  but  the  fact  is  the  reverse  ;  and  if  the 
fact  were  the  reverse  also  with  the  Chinese, — if  a  young 
Chinese,  brought  out  of  his  own  country  very  young, 
were,  without  ever  having  seen  another  Chinese,  to  be- 
gin at  the  age  of  five  or  six  to  eat  rice  with  two  sticks, 
to  clothe  himself  in  blue  and  nankeen,  and  adore  the 
great  idol  Foo,  we  must  call  this  sameness  the  sameness 
of  instinct ;  but  as  he  does  these  foolish  things  because 
he  lives  with  other  Chinese,  it  is  the  sameness  proceed- 
ing from  imitation,  and  strengthened,  as  we  happen  to 
know  it  to  be,  by  religious  association.  I  have  thus  far 
attempted  to  prove  that  brutes  are  guided  by  some  prin- 


242  LECTURE    XVIII. 

ciple,  which  is  not  the  principle  of  reason.  There  is 
another  philosophy  that  degrades  them  merely  to  the 
state  of  machines.  The  great  Descartes  looked  upon  a 
brute  as  a  mere  machine,  that  could  no  more  help  acting 
as  it  does  act,  and  was  no  more  conscious  of  how  it  acts, 
than  the  Androides,  or  the  chess-playing  machine.  All 
that  the  arguments  brought  forward  by  Descartes,  go  to 
prove,  are,  that  such  a  case  is  possible ; — that  they  may 
be  so  many  machines,  not  that  they  are  so, — that  it  in- 
volves no  contradiction  to  call  them  machines ;  which 
every  one  who  understands  any  thing  of  reasoning,  would 
willingly  grant :  but,  observe,  when  we  have  no  means 
of  subjecting  our  question  to  the  direct  evidence  of  the 
senses,  or  to  mathematical  demonstration,  we  must  re- 
sort to  analogy ;  without  which,  one  conjecture  is  quite 
as  probable  as  another.  We  get  from  the  observation 
of  ourselves,  the  notion  both  of  voluntary  and  involun- 
tary motion.  We  are  conscious  that  when  we  choose 
to  put  one  leg  before  another  we  can  do  so.  If  we  tum- 
ble out  of  bed,  we  are  conscious  we  fall  to  the  ground 
without  the  smallest  intention  of  so  doing,  but  that  we 
are  overruled  by  a  power  we  can  not  resist.  Now,  hav- 
ing gained  the  knowledge  of  these  two  principles,  from 
what  passes  within  ourselves,  we  proceed  to  apply  it, 
with  as  much  attention  as  possible,  to  similarity  of  cir- 
cumstances. A  person  sees  another  man,  made  to  all 
appearance  like  himself;  he  does  not  think  him,  per- 
haps, quite  so  good  looking,  but  it  is  the  same  sort  of 
animal ;  and  when  he  sees  him  walk, — presuming  that 
like  effects  are  produced  by  like  causes,— he  believes  that 
he  is  not  moved  by  any  principle  of  mechanism,  but  that 
the  gentleman  walks  because  he  chooses  to  walk  :  but 
the  same  person  puts  his  foot  upon  a  stone,  and  falls  on 
a  sudden,  flat  upon  his  face;  that,  says  the  observer, 
must  be  involuntary  motion,  because  I  have  experienced 
the  same  myself  upon  similar  occasions.  In  the  same 
manner,  he  perceives  a  horse  running  after  his  food, 
playing  with  other  horses,  avoiding  pain  and  seeking 
pleasure.  Upon  the  same  principle,  that  similar  effects 
are  produced  by  similar  causes,  he  determines  that  the 
horse  has  sensation,  and  consciousness,  and  will ;  still 


ON  THE  FACULTIES  OF  BEASTS.  243 

determining  the  matter  by  a  reference  to  his  own  pre- 
vious experience,  which,  whether  it  be  a  good  or  a  bad 
guide,  is  the  only  one  that  can  possibly  be  resorted  to  in 
such  conjectures.  By  a  reference  to  the  same  principle, 
we  believe  that  a  stone,  let  loose  from  the  hand,  does  not 
fall  to  the  ground  by  choice,  but  by  necessity ;  and  be- 
tween the  two  clear  and  extreme  points,  of  motion  pro- 
duced by  external  agency,  and  motion  produced  by  will, 
delicate  cases  must  occur,  where  the  opposite  analogies 
are  so  equally  balanced,  that  it  is  impossible  to  determine 
whether  the  subject  thinks  or  not.  For  instance,  does 
the  sensitive  plant  think,  when  it  contracts  its  leaves 
upon  being  touched  ?  does  it  really  feel  danger  or  pain  ? 
or  is  it  a  mere  involuntary  contraction,  such  as  takes 
place  in  the  human  body  when  a  nerve  is  stimulated  ? 
When  a  plant  in  a  dark  cellar  turns  round  to  drink  in  a 
ray  of  light  let  in,  is  this  the  action  of  a  reasoning  being, 
that  knows  what  is  its  proper  food,  and  seeks  it  ?  or  is 
it  a  mere  case  of  chemical  action,  in  which  there  is  no 
interference  of  the  will  ?  Opposite  analogies  seem  to  be 
so  balanced  in  these  kinds  of  questions,  that  it  is  very 
difficult  to  resolve  them :  but  to  comparison  alone  we 
can  resort  for  it ;  and  comparison  shows  us,  that  animals 
can  not  possibly  gain  some  of  their  knowledge  as  we 
gain  ours ;  and  it  makes  it  also  probable,  that  they  do 
gain  a  very  considerable  part  precisely  as  we  do. 

Before  I  proceed  to  speak  of  the  faculties  of  animals,  I 
wish  to  anticipate  an  objection  which  has  been  made  to 
my  use  of  the  word  faculty.  Some  friends  of  mine  have 
asked  me,  whether  animals  had  the  religious  faculty ; 
and  whether  I  mean  to  say,  in  stating  they  had  the  rudi- 
ments of  our  faculties,  that  they  had  the  rudiments  of 
this  faculty  also.  Such  sort  of  questions  evince,  more 
than  any  thing  else,  the  necessity  of  a  little  candor  and 
moderation  on  these  topics,  and  of  proceeding  to  ex- 
planation, before  we  proceed  to  blame.  I  never  before 
heard  religion  called  &  faculty :  a  knowledge  of  religion 
is  acquired  by  our  faculties,  and  it  is  the  highest  proof 
of  the  degree  in  which  we  possess  them ;  but  if  the 
power  is  to  be  confounded  with  the  object  of  that  power, 
— if  all  those  things  that  we  acquire  by  means  of  our 


244  LECTURE    XVIII. 

faculties  are  to  be  called  our  faculties, — then,  navigation, 
commerce,  and  agriculture  are  faculties !  Any  man  is 
perfectly  free  to  use  the  word  in  this  sense  if  he  pleases  ; 
only  let  it  not  be  made  an  objection  to  me,  that  I  have  not 
followed  such  an  example,  and  that  I  have  used  words 
as  they  always  hitherto  have  been  used.  I  shall  now 
proceed  to  the  specification  of  my  authorities.* 

Respecting  the  faculties  of  animals,  I  shall  translate 
from  "  Lettres  sur  les  Animaux,"  by  Bailly,  two  anec- 
dotes respecting  brutes,  which  Mr.  Stewart  quotes  in 
his  "  Elements  of  the  Philosophy  of  the  Human  Mind." 

"  A  friend  of  mine,"  says  Mr.  Bailly,  "  a  man  of  un- 
derstanding and  strict  veracity,  related  to  me  these 
two  facts,  of  which  he  was  an  eye-writness.  He  had  a 
very  intelligent  ape,  to  whom  he  amused  himself  by  giv- 
ing w7alnuts,  of  wThich  the  animal  was  extremely  fond. 
One  day,  he  placed  them  at  such  a  distance  from  the 
ape,  that  the  animal,  restrained  by  his  chain,  could  not 
reach  them  :  after  many  useless  efforts  to  indulge  him- 
self in  his  favorite  delicacy,  he  happened  to  see  a  servant 
pass  by  with  a  napkin  under  his  arm ;  he  immediately 
seized  hold  of  it,  whisked  it  out  beyond  his  arm,  to  beat 
the  nuts  within  his  reach,  and  so  obtained  possession  of 
them.  His  mode  of  breaking  the  walnut  was  a  fresh 
proof  of  his  inventive  powers ;  he  placed  the  walnut 
upon  the  ground,  let  a  great  stone  fall  upon  it,  and  so  got 
at  its  contents.  One  day,  the  ground  on  which  he  had 
placed  the  walnut  was  so  much  softer  than  usual,  that, 
instead  of  breaking  the  walnut,  the  ape  only  drove  it 
into  the  earth  :  what  does  the  animal  do  ?  he  takes  up  a 
tile,  places  the  walnut  upon  it,  and  then  lets  the  stone 
fall,  while  the  walnut  is  in  this  position." 

Admitting  these  facts  to  be  true, — and  they  appear  to 
be  well  authenticated, — it  is  impossible  to  deny  that 
there  passed  in  the  mind  of  this  animal,  all  that  custom- 
ary process  of  invention  that  wTould  take  place  in  our 
own  minds,  when  we  were  engaged  in  similar  under- 
takings. If  a  man  were  to  drop  his  hat  in  the  water, 
and  by  means  of  a  stick  to  get  it  out  again,  he  would 

*  Locke,  pp.  59,  60,  61,  213,  330;  Hartley,  247;  Reid,  114. 


ON  THE  FACULTIES  OF  BEASTS.  245 

have  done  much  the  same  sort  of  thing  as  this  animal 
did.  When  Mr.  Bramah  invents  his  patent  locks,  I  can 
tell  him  what  passes  in  his  mind :  he  first  pauses  in- 
tensely upon  the  idea  of  what  he  wishes  to  accomplish, 
— an  outside  ward  or  wards,  that  revolve  with  the  key, 
or  some  of  the  mysteries  of  locksmithery :  after  he  has 
paused  some  time,  all  the  ideas  anywise  related  to  this 
first  idea,  flock  into  his  mind,  and  among  these,  he  dis- 
covers some  relation  which  one  bears  to  the  other,  that 
he  did  not  know  before,  and  which  will  lead  to  the  end 
he  has  in  view.  Exactly  so  Condillac's  ape  :  his  object 
was  to  obtain  the  walnut ;  he  dwelt  upon  that  idea  ;  a 
thousand  related  ideas  occurred  to  his  mind ;  he  put 
out  one  foot,  then  another  ;  laid  himself  down  upon  his 
back,  to  lengthen  the  extent  of  his  foot  as  much  as  possi- 
ble ;  and  then,  when  he  was  dwelling  upon  these  ideas, 
the  relation  that  subsisted  between  the  napkin  and  the 
attainment  of  the  nut,  rushed  across  his  mind,  and  he 
availed  himself  of  it  :  and  precisely  by  the  same  process 
of  understanding  he  made  use  of  the  tile,  to  lay  over 
the  soft  earth.  When  an  old  greyhound  that  has  been 
accustomed  to  follow  the  hare  fairly,  begins  to  run  cun- 
ning, or  when  two  greyhounds  are  in  pursuit  of  a  hare, 
and  one  of  them  runs  to  a  gap  in  the  hedge,  which  it 
had  known  before,  and  through  which  it  is  probable  the 
hare  will  pass, — in  what  does  this  latter  greyhound 
differ,  in  his  way  of  acting  and  reasoning,  from  an  old 
sportsman,  who  is  too  lazy  to  follow  the  hounds  outright, 
and  cuts  across  to  save  time  and  labor  ?  I  have  reason 
to  believe  that  somebody  is  lost  in  a  snow  storm ; — I 
mark  the  track  of  his  feet,  distinguishing  it  carefully 
from  other  footsteps  ;  all  of  a  sudden  I  lose  the  track, — 
what  does  common  sense  point  out  to  me  to  do  ?  I  go 
all  round  in  a  circle,  at  the  very  spot  where  the  signs 
were  first  deficient,  to  see  if  I  can  recover  the  thread  of 
my  pursuit.  A  little  boy,  whom  I  have  with  me,  is  per- 
petually mistaking  every  mark  he  sees  for  the  true  one, 
and  calling  out  he  has  found  it ;  I  pay  no  sort  of  atten- 
tion to  what  he  says,  for  I  know  that  he  is  young  and 
volatile,  and  1  continue  the  search  myself;  but  if  I  hear 
the  voice  of  a  trusty  servant  at  a  distance,  exclaiming 


246  LECTURE    XVIII. 

that  he  has  rediscovered  the  track,  I  immediately  repair 
to  the  spot,  with  a  strong  belief  that  it  will  turn  out  to 
be  the  fact :  and  it  is  so.  Now,  during  all  this  time, 
have  I  not  been  exercising  my  reasoning  ?  have  I  not 
been  applying  my  previous  experience  to  the  new  cases 
before  me  ?  and  could  not  the  reasons  upon  which  I 
have  acted,  be  drawn  out  into  so  many  syllogisms  ? 
And  do  not  hounds  in  the  pursuit  of  their  game,  con- 
duct themselves  in  a  manner  similar  to  this  ?  They  go 
on  straightforward  as  far  as  the  scent  lasts ;  when  it 
fails  them,  they  cast  round  in  a  circle  to  recover  it.  The 
old  hounds  pay  not  the  smallest  attention  to  the  yelping 
of  the  young  ones  :  they  know  they  are  not  to  be  trusted  ; 
but  the  moment  an  old  experienced  hound  gives  tongue, 
the  whole  pack  resort  to  him,  without  the  least  hesita- 
tion, and  consider  their  object  as  gained.  I  confess  I 
am  quite  at  a  loss  to  decide  what  difference  there  is  be- 
tween the  faculties  employed  on  both  these  occasions. 
A  hunted  stag  will  return  again  upon  the  line  it  has 
been  running,  then  give  three  or  four  strong  bounds, 
scarcely  touching  the  ground,  and  make  off  in  a  lateral 
direction :  sometimes  he  will  run  in  among  other  deer 
and  cattle,  and  endeavor  to  elude  the  sagacity  of  the 
dogs  by  these  means  ;  at  other  times  he  will  hide  himself 
up  to  the  nose  in  reeds  and  water.  All  this  implies  a 
vast  deal  of  previous  observation,  a  fund  of  experience, 
and  a  ready  application  of  that  experience  to  new  cases. 
The  artifices  of  a  gentleman  pursued  by  bailiffs,  and  the 
artifices  of  an  animal  pursued  for  his  life,  are  the  same 
thing, — call  them  by  what  name  you  please.  Of  all 
animals,  the  most  surprising  stories  are  told  of  the  docility 
of  elephants.  The  black  people,  who  have  the  care  of 
them,  often  go  away,  leaving  them  chained  to  a  stake, 
and  place  near  them  their  young  children,  as  if  under 
their  care  :  the  elephant  allows  the  little  creatures  to 
crawl  as  far  as  its  trunk  can  reach,  and  then  gently  takes 
the  young  master  up,  and  places  him  more  within  his  own 
control.  Every  one  knows  the  old  story  of  the  tailor 
and  the  elephant,  which,  if  it  be  not  true,  at  least  shows 
the  opinion  the  Orientals,  who  know  the  animal  well, 
entertain  of  his  sagacity.     An  eastern  tailor  to  the  court 


ON  THE  FACULTIES  OF  BEASTS.  247 

was  making  a  magnificent  doublet  for  a  bashaw  of  nine 
tails,  and  covering  it,  after  the  manner  of  eastern  doub- 
lets with  gold,  silver,  and  every  species  of  metallic  magnifi- 
cence. As  he  was  busying  himself  on  this  momentous 
occasion,  there  passed  by,  to  the  pools  of  water,  one  of 
the  royal  elephants,  about  the  size  of  a  broad-wheeled 
wagon,  rich  in  ivory  teeth,  and  shaking  with  its  ponder- 
ous tread,  the  tailor's  shop  to  its  remotest  thimble.  As 
he  passed  near  the  window,  the  elephant  happened  to 
look  in ;  the  tailor  lifted  up  his  eyes,  perceived  the  pro- 
boscis of  the  elephant  near  him,  and,  being  seized  with  a 
fit  of  facetiousness,  pricked  the  animal  with  his  needle : 
the  mass  of  matter  immediately  retired,  stalked  away  to 
the  pool,  filled  his  trunk  full  of  muddy  water,  and,  return- 
ing to  the  shop,  overwhelmed  the  artisan  and  his  doublet 
with  the  dirty  effects  of  his  vengeance.  Instances  of 
memory  in  animals,  and  of  the  most  tenacious  memory, 
are  endless.  If  an  animal  obey  the  voice  of  his  master, 
or  love  the  hand  that  feeds  him,  it  is  association.  In 
what  way  can  a  sheep  or  a  dog  find  his  way  back  thirty 
or  forty  miles,  over  a  country  he  has  passed  but  once, 
through  by-paths  and  over  extensive  downs  ?  What  is 
all  this  but  the  most  acute  attention,  and  the  most 
accurate  memory  ?  A  dog,  to  do  this,  must  have  paid 
the  most  accurate  attention  to  cart-ruts,  little  hillocks, 
single  shrubs,  and  the  minutest  marks  which  guide  him 
in  his  course.  Almost  all  animals  are  very  diligent  ob- 
servers of  places,  and  know  them  by  a  thousand  criteria 
which  we  do  not  observe,  and  which,  from  the  extent  of 
horizon  we  comprehend  in  our  view,  we  have  no  occa- 
sion to  observe.  It  must  be  from  that  same  habit  of 
observation,  common  to  all  animals,  and  from  the  same 
necessity  they  are  under  of  observing  attentively,  that 
American  Indians  are  able  to  find  their  way  across  the 
woods,  in  the  very  surprising  manner  mentioned  by  Mr. 
Weld,  in  his  very  sensible,  judicious,  and  impartial 
Travels  in  America.  They  will  penetrate  through  a 
wood  of  many  leagues  in  extent,  which  they  have  not 
passed  for  twenty  years  before,  without  deviating  a  single 
step  from  their  former  track  :  the  fact  is,  they  are  com- 
pelled   (like    animals),    from    a   consideration   of    their 


248  LECTURE    XVIII. 

safety,  to  observe  with  the  closest  attention, — and 
whatever  is  observed  closely,  is  remembered  tenaciously. 
Animals  profit  by  experience,  as  we  do, — not  so  much, 
but  in  the  same  manner.  All  old  animals  are  much 
more  cunning,  with  much  more  difficulty  caught  in 
traps,  and  hunted  with  dogs,  than  young  animals :  an 
old  wolf,  or  an  old  fox,  will  walk  round  a  trap  twenty 
times,  examining  every  circumstance  with  the  utmost 
attention  :  and  those  who  deceive  them,  are  only  enabled 
to  do  so  by  every  possible  care  and  circumspection. 
They  have  abstract  ideas,  exactly  as  we  have  abstract 
ideas.  When  a  huntsman  whips  a  hare  out  of  its  form, 
he  sees  only  an  individual  object ;  but  he  knows  that 
this  individual  animal  has  qualities  and  properties  com- 
mon to  a  whole  species ;  and  the  greyhound  that  pur- 
sues that  particular  hare, — be  it  little  or  be  it  big, — 
knows  that  it  has  properties  common  to  all  other  ani- 
mals,— that  it  is  quick,  cunning,  and  good  to  eat :  in 
the  same  manner,  a  dog  that  lives  in  a  town,  meets 
sometimes  a  man  in  a  yellow  coat,  sometimes  in  a  green 
one,  sometimes  a  tall  man,  sometimes  a  short  man,  but 
he  knows  they  are  all  men ;  each  man  excites  in  him 
nearly  the  same  idea  from  the  qualities  he  possesses,  in 
common  with  all  other  men,  and  in  spite  of  his  own  in- 
dividual peculiarities.  Locke  says  that  animals  have  no 
universal  ideas  ;  that  they  do  not  abstract :  but,  then, 
Locke  was  mistaken  in  supposing  that  men  had  uni- 
versal ideas.  Bishop  Berkeley  has  demonstrated, — and 
his  demonstration  is  universally  agreed  to  by  every  one, 
— that  it  is  nonsense  to  talk  about  universal  ideas ;  that 
there  are  no  such  things  as  universal  ideas ;  and  that 
what  we  have  called  universal  ideas  are  nothing  but  par- 
ticular ones,  accompanied  with  the  notion  that  they  are 
common  to  a  species. 

Then,  again,  for  the  affections  of  animals.  They 
grieve,  rejoice,  play,  are  ennuied,  as  we  are ;  feel  anger, 
as  we  do ;  parental  affection,  and  personal  attachment. 
There  are  stories  in  Smellie's  "Natural  Philosophy," 
and  well  authenticated,  of  a  very  serious  attachment 
that  subsisted  between  a  dunghill-cock  and  a  horse,  who 
happened  to   be   kept  in  the  same  paddock  together. 


UN  THE  FACULTIES  OF  BEASTS.  249 

Every  body  has  seen  the  lapdog  and  the  lioness  in  the 
Tower ;  and  I  believe  a  lamb  also  has  been  kept  in  the 
Tower  with  the  lions.  In  short,  every  body  has  innu- 
merable stories  to  tell  of  the  affections  of  animals ;  and 
the  difficulty  is,  rather  to  abridge  than  to  multiply  them. 
Now,  if  I  am  right  in  stating  that  animals  have  the 
same  sort  of  faculties  as  man,  the  question  immediately 
occurs  of  the  origin  of  that  distinction  and  superiority 
which  man  has  gained  over  all  other  animated  beings. 
One  cause  of  that  superiority  I  conceive  to  be,  his  lon- 
gevity :  without  it,  that  accumulation  of  experience  in 
action,  and  of  knowledge  in  speculation,  could  not  have 
existed ;  and  though  man  would  still  have  been  the  first 
of  all  animals,  the  difference  between  him  and  others 
would  have  been  less  considerable  than  it  now  is.  The 
wTisdom  of  a  man  is  made  up  of  what  he  observes,  and 
what  others  observe  for  him ;  and  of  course  the  sum  of 
what  he  can  acquire  must  principally  depend  upon  the 
time  in  which  he  can  acquire  it.  All  that  we  add  to  our 
knowledge  is  not  an  increase,  by  that  exact  proportion, 
of  all  we  possess  ;  because  we  lose  some  things,  as  we 
gain  others ;  but  upon  the  whole,  while  the  body  and 
mind  remain  healthy,  an  active  man  increases  in  intelli- 
gence, and  consequently  in  power.  If  we  lived  seven 
hundred  years  instead  of  seventy,  we  should  write  better 
epic  poems,  build  better  houses,  and  invent  more  com- 
plicated mechanism,  than  we  do  now.  I  should  question 
very  much  if  Mr.  Milne  could  build  a  bridge  so  well  as 
a  gentleman  who  had  engaged  in  that  occupation  for 
seven  centuries  :  and  if  I  had  had  only  two  hundred 
years'  experience  in  lecturing  on  moral  philosophy,  I  am 
well  convinced  I  should  do  it  a  little  better  than  I  now 
do.  On  the  contrary,  how  diminutive  and  absurd  all 
the  efforts  of  man  would  have  been,  if  the  duration  of 
his  life  had  only  been  twenty  years,  and  if  he  had  died 
of  old  age  just  at  the  period  when  every  human  being 
begins  to  suspect  that  he  is  the  wisest  and  most  extra- 
ordinary person  that  ever  did  exist !  I  think  it  is  Hel- 
vetius  who  says,  he  is  quite  certain  we  only  owe  our 
superiority  over  the  ourang-outangs  to  the  greater  length 
of  life  conceded  to  us ;  and  that,  if  our  life  had  been  as 

T.# 


250  LECTURE    XVIII. 

short  as  theirs,  they  would  have  totally  defeated  us  in 
the  competition  for  nuts  and  ripe  blackberries.  I  can 
hardly  agree  to  this  extravagant  statement ;  but  I  think, 
in  a  life  of  twenty  years  the  efforts  of  the  human  mind 
would  have  been  so  considerably  lowered,  that  we  might 
probably  have  thought  Helvetius  a  good  philosopher, 
and  admired  his  skeptical  absurdities  as  some  of  the 
greatest  efforts  of  the  human  understanding.  Sir  Richard 
Blackmore  would  have  been  our  greatest  poet ;  our  wit 
would  have  been  Dutch  ;  our  faith,  French  ;  the  Hotten- 
tots would  have  given  us  the  model  for  manners,  and  the 
Turks  for  government ;  and  we  might  probably  have 
been  such  miserable  reasoners  respecting  the  sacred 
truths  of  religion,  that  we  should  have  thought  they 
wanted  the  support  of  a  puny  and  childish  jealousy  of 
the  poor  beasts  that  perish.  His  gregarious  nature  is 
another  cause  of  man's  superiority  over  all  other  animals. 
A  lion  lies  under  a  hole  in  a  rock  ;  and  if  any  other  lion 
happen  to  pass  by,  they  fight.  Now,  whoever  gets  a 
habit  of  lying  under  a  hole  in  a  rock,  and  fighting  with 
every  gentleman  who  passes  near  him,  can  not  possibly 
make  any  progress.  Every  man's  understanding  and 
acquirements,  how  great  and  extensive  soever  they  may 
appear,  are  made  up  from  the  contributions  of  his  friends 
and  companions.  You  spend  your  morning  in  learning 
from  Hume  what  happened  at  particular  periods  of  your 
own  history :  you  dine  where  some  man  tells  you  what 
he  has  observed  in  the  East  Indies,  and  another  dis- 
courses of  brown  sugar  and  Jamaica.  It  is  from  these 
perpetual  rills  of  knowledge,  that  you  refresh  yourself, 
and  become  strong  and  healthy  as  you  are.  If  lions 
would  consort  together,  and  growl  out  the  observations 
they  have  made,  about  killing  sheep  and  shepherds,  the 
most  likely  places  for  catching  a  calf  grazing,  and  so 
forth,  they  could  not  fail  to  improve  ;  because  they  would 
be  actuated  by  such  a  wide  range  of  observation,  and 
operating  by  the  joint  force  of  so  many  minds.  It  may 
be  said,  that  the  gregarious  spirit  in  man,  may  proceed 
from  his  wisdom ;  and  not  his  wisdom  from  his  gre- 
garious spirit.  This  I  should  doubt.  It  appears  to  be 
an  original  principle  in  some  animals,  and  not  in  others ; 


ON  THE  FACULTIES  OF  BEASTS.  251 

and  is  a  quality  given  to  some  to  better  their  condition, 
as  swiftness  or  strength  is  given  to  others.  The  tiger 
lives  alone, — bulls  and  cows  do  not ;  yet,  a  tiger  is  as 
wise  an  animal  as  a  bull.  A  wild  boar  lives  with  the 
herd  till  he  comes  of  age,  which  he  does  at  three  years, 
and  then  quits  the  herd  and  lives  alone.  There  is  a 
solitary  species  of  bee,  and  there  is  a  gregarious  bee. 
Whether  an  animal  should  herd  or  not,  seems  to  be  as 
much  a  provision  of  nature,  as  whether  it  should  crawl, 
creep,  or  fly. 

A  third  method,  in  which  man  gains  the  dominion 
over  other  animals,  is  by  the  structure  of  his  body,  and 
the  mechanism  of  his  hands.  Suppose,  with  all  our 
understanding,  it  had  pleased  Providence  to  make  us  like 
lobsters,  or  to  imprison  us  in  shells  like  crayfish,  I  very 
much  question  if  the  monkeys  would  not  have  converted 
us  into  sauce ;  nor  can  I  conceive  any  possible  method, 
by  which  such  a  fate  could  have  been  averted.  Suppose 
man,  with  the  same  faculties,  the  same  body,  and  the 
hands  and  feet  of  an  ox, — what  then  wrould  have  been 
his  fate  ?  Anaxagoras  is  represented  by  ancient  authors 
as  maintaining  that  man  owes  all  his  superiority  in  wis- 
dom and  knowledge  to  the  structure  of  his  hands.  That 
hands  will  not  do  every  thing,  is  very  plain,  because 
monkeys  have  hands,  and  make  no  use  of  them  for  any 
purpose  of  ameliorating  their  condition.  All  that  can 
be  said  of  the  hand  is,  that  it  is  a  very  exquisite  tool, — 
but  a  tool  does  not  make  an  artist;  it  is  a  means  by 
which  an  artist  carries  his  conceptions  into  execution, — 
but  his  conceptions  do  not  depend  upon  his  tools.  There 
can  be  no  doubt,  however,  but  that  the  destiny  of  man, 
and  the  extent  of  his  faculties  have  been  very  consider- 
ably influenced  by  this  mechanism  of  the  hand.  The 
first  thing  to  be  done  in  the  progress  of  civilization,  is  to 
mitigate  the  physical  inconveniences  by  which  man  is 
surrounded  :  this  can  not  be  done  without  smelting  the 
metals,  breaking  up  the  surface  of  the  earth,  and  doing 
innumerable  things,  which,  without  as  perfect  an  organ 
as  the  hand,  could  not  be  done.  Without  the  hand,  man 
would  not  have  fused  metals ;  without  the  fusion  of 
metals,  he  would  never  have  got  very  far  above   the 


252  LECTURE    XVIII. 

pressure  of  immediate  want ;  and  consequently  his  facul- 
ties would  not  have  been  what  they  now  are.  Neither  is 
it  simply  by  securing  to  him  the  free  and  uninterrupted 
exercise  of  his  faculties,  that  the  instruments — his  hands 
- — have  invented,  have  improved  his  understanding ;  but 
those  instruments  have  opened  to  his  observation  new 
and  unlimited  fields  of  knowledge,  which  have  re-excited 
those  faculties  by  the  strongest  stimulus  of  curiosity,  and 
improved  them  by  exercise.  Accident,  perhaps,  first 
gave  the  notion  of  glass  :  there  was  some  talent  in  ascer- 
taining the  precise  circumstances  upon  which  the  first 
observed  appearances  depended ;  but  to  what  infinite 
talent  has  this  discovery  contributed !  how  much  curi- 
osity has  it  excited!  what  powerful  understandings  it 
has  called  into  action  !  how  it  has  widened  the  materials 
of  human  knowledge,  and  guided  the  mind  of  man  to 
the  most  abstruse  speculations  ! 

Then,  again,  man  owes  something  to  his  size  and 
strength.  If  he  had  been  only  twro  feet  high,  he  could 
not  possibly  have  subdued  the  earth,  and  roasted  and 
boiled  animated  nature  in  the  way  he  now  does.  Some- 
thing he  owes  also  to  the  number  and  perfection  of  his 
senses ;  because,  though  there  may  be  some  one  animal 
which  excels  him  in  each  particular  sense,  there  are  few 
who  enjoy  all  their  senses  in  such  perfection. 

This  is  all  very  well :  these  (which  I  have  stated)  are 
clearly  conspiring  causes ;  but  they  will  not  do  alone,  as 
the  enemies  to  man  have  absurdly  contended.  The  ape 
has  hands  as  good,  and  stature  as  great,  and  is  as  fond  of 
society,  and  his  senses  are  as  acute  as  ours  ;  and  yet,  the 
ape  has  certainly  hitherto  taken  no  very  surprising  part 
in  the  political  revolutions  of  the  earth, — done  very  little 
for  science, — and  seems,  with  the  exception  of  a  few 
atheists,  and  metaphysicians,  to  be  held  in  very  little 
honor  by  any  body.  The  fact  seems  to  be,  that  though 
almost  every  quality  of  mind  we  possess,  can  be  traced 
in  some  trifling  degree  in  brutes,  yet  that  degree,  com- 
pared with  the  extent  in  which  the  same  quality  is  ob- 
servable in  man,  is  very  low  and  inconsiderable.  For 
instance,  we  can  not  say  that  animals  are  devoid  of  cu- 
riosity, but  they  have  a  very  slight  degree  of  curiosity : 


ON  THE  FACULTIES  OF  BEASTS.  253 

they  imitate,  but  they  imitate  very  slightly  in  comparison 
with  men  ;  they  can  not  imitate  any  thing  very  difficult ; 
and  many  of  them  hardly  imitate  at  all :  they  abstract, 
but  they  can  not  make  such  compound  abstractions  as 
men  do  ;  they  have  no  such  compounded  abstractions  as 
city,  prudence,  fortitude,  parliament,  and  justice :  they 
reason,  but  their  reasonings  are  very  short  and  very  ob- 
vious :  they  invent,  but  their  inventions  are  extremely 
easy,  and  not  above  the  reach  of  a  human  idiot.  The 
story  I  quoted  from  Bailly,  about  the  ape  and  the  wal- 
nuts, is  one  of  the  most  extraordinary  I  ever  read  ;  but 
what  a  wretched  limit  of  intellect  does  it  imply,  to  be 
cited  as  an  instance  of  extraordinary  sagacity  ! 

But  all  the  faculties  which  every  animal  possesses,  are 
given  him  for  the  mere  purposes  of  existence.  When 
his  life  is  endangered,  when  his  young  are  to  be  secured, 
and  his  prey  entrapped,  he  develops  the  limited  re- 
sources of  his  nature ;  for  every  thing  else  he  has  no 
talents  at  all;  nor  has  any  animal  ever  betrayed  the 
slightest  disposition  to  knowledge, — except  as  knowledge 
gratified  immediately  his  hunger,  or  as  would  immediate- 
ly have  secured  his  life.  Whereas,  man  is  so  far  from 
being  influenced  only  by  the  moment  which  is  passing 
over  his  head,  that  he  looks  back  to  centuries  past  for 
the  guide  of  his  actions,  and  to  centuries  to  come  for 
their  motive.  In  fact,  nothing  can  be  more  weak,  and 
mistaken  than  to  suppose  that  the  doctrine  of  the  immor- 
tality of  the  soul,  depends  upon  making  brutes  mere 
machines,  or  denying  to  them  the  mere  outlines  of  our 
faculties.  To  talk  of  God  being  the  soul  of  brutes,  is  the 
worst  and  most  profane  degradation  of  divine  power. 
To  suppose  that  He  who  regulates  the  rolling  of  the 
planets,  and  the  return  of  seasons,  by  general  laws,  inter- 
feres, by  a  special  act  of  his  power,  to  make  a  bird  fly, 
and  an  insect  flutter, — to  suppose  that  a  gaudy  moth 
can  not  expand  its  wings  to  the  breeze,  or  a  lark  unfold 
its  plumage  to  the  sun,  without  the  special  mandate  of 
that  God  who  fixes  incipient  passions  in  the  human 
heart,  and  leaves  them  to  produce  a  Borgia  to  scourge 
mankind,  or  a  Newton  to  instruct  them, — is  not  piety, 
or  science,  but  a  most  pernicious  substitution  of  degrad- 


254  LECTURE    XVIII. 

ing  conjectures,  from  an  ignorant  apprehension  of  the 
consequences  of  admitting  plain  facts.  In  the  name  of 
common  sense,  what  have  men  to  fear  from  allowing  to 
beasts  their  miserable  and  contemptible  pittance  of  facul- 
ties ?  What  can  those  men  have  read  of  the  immortality 
of  the  soul  ?  what  can  they  think  of  the  strength  of 
those  arguments  on  which  it  is  founded,  if  they  believe 
it  requires  the  aid  of  such  contemptible  and  boyish  jeal- 
ousy of  the  lower  order  of  beings  ?  what  must  they  feel 
within  themselves,  to  conceive  such  arguments  ?  what 
notion  must  they  communicate  to  others  of  the  fullness, 
and  sufficiency,  and  strength  of  those  powers,  when  they 
stand  quibbling  and  trembling  at  every  faint  semblance 
of  reason,  which  a  beast  exhibits  in  searching  for  water 
and  flesh,  and  eluding  the  spear  of  the  hunter?  The 
enemies  of  the  soul's  immortality  I  do  not  fear  ;  I  know 
how  often  they  have  been  vanquished  before ;  and  I  am 
quite  sure  that  they  will  be  overthrown  again  with  a 
mighty  overthrow,  as  often  as  they  do  appear.  But  I 
confess  I  have  some  considerable  dread  of  the  indiscreet 
friends  of  religion.  I  tremble  at  that  respectable  imbe- 
cility which  shuffles  away  the  plainest  truths,  and  thinks 
the  strongest  of  all  causes  wants  the  weakest  of  all  aids. 
I  shudder  at  the  consequences  of  fixing  the  great  proofs 
of  religion  upon  any  other  basis,  than  that  of  the  widest 
investigation,  and  most  honest  statement  of  facts.  I  al- 
low such  nervous  and  timid  friends  to  religion  to  be  the 
best  and  most  pious  of  men ;  but  a  bad  defender  of  re- 
ligion is  so  much  the  most  pernicious  person  in  the  whole 
community,  that  I  most  humbly  hope  such  friends  will 
evince  their  zeal  for  religion,  by  ceasing  to  defend  it ; 
and  remember  that  not  every  man  is  qualified  to  be  the 
advocate  of  a  cause  in  which  the  mediocrity  of  his  un- 
derstanding may  possibly  compromise  the  dearest  and 
most  affecting  interests  of  society.  What  have  the 
shadow  and  mockery  of  faculties,  given  to  beasts,  to  do 
with  the  immortality  of  the  soul  ?  Have  beasts  any  gen- 
eral fear  of  annihilation  ?  have  they  any  love  of  fame  ? 
do  their  small  degrees  of  faculties  ever  give  them  any 
feelings  of  this  nature?  are  their  minds  perpetually  es- 
caping into  futurity  ?  have  they  any  love  of  posthumous 


ON  THE  FACULTIES  OF  BEASTS.  255 

fame  ?  have  they  any  knowledge  of  God  ?  have  they  ever 
reached,  in  their  conceptions,  the  slightest  traces  of  a 
hereafter?  can  they  form  the  notion  of  duty  and  ac- 
countability ?  is  it  any  violation  of  any  one  of  the  moral 
attributes  of  the  Deity,  to  suppose  that  they  go  back  to 
their  dust,  and  that  we  do  not  ?  Is  it  no  reason  to  say, 
that,  because  they  partake  in  the  slightest  degree  of  our 
nature,  they  are  entitled  to  all  the  privileges  of  our  na- 
ture ; — because,  upon  that  principle,  if  we  partake  of  the 
nature  of  any  higher  order  of  spirits,  we  ought  to  be 
them,  and  not  ourselves ;  and  they  ought  to  be  some 
higher  order  still,  and  so  on.  And  if  it  be  inconsistent 
to  suppose  a  difference  in  duration,  then  also  it  is  to  sup- 
pose a  difference  in  degree,  of  mind ;  and  then  every 
human  being  has  a  right  to  complain  that  he  is  not  a 
Newton. 

To  conclude  :  Such  truths  want  not  such  aids.  The 
weakest  and  the  most  absurd  arguments  ever  used 
against  religion,  have  been  the  attempts  to  compare 
brutes  with  men  ;  and  the  weakest  answer  to  these 
arguments  have  been,  the  jealousies  which  men  have 
exhibited  of  brutes.  As  facts  are  fairly  stated,  and 
boldly  brought  forward,  the  more  all  investigation  goes 
to  establish  the  ancient  opinion  of  man,  before  it  was 
confirmed  by  revealed  religion, — that  brutes  are  of  this 
world  only ;  that  man  is  imprisoned  here  only  for  a 
season, — to  take  a  better  or  a  worse  hereafter,  as  he 
deserves  it.  This  old  truth  is  the  fountain  of  all  good- 
ness, and  justice,  and  kindness  among  men :  may  we  all 
feel  it  intimately,  obey  it  perpetually,  and  profit  by  it 
eternally ! 


LECTURE  XIX. 

ON  THE  CONDUCT  OF  THE  UNDERSTANDING.— PART  II. 

I  concluded  my  last  course  with  a  Lecture  upon  the 
Conduct  of  the  Understanding*  (which  I  intended,  as 
I  do  this,  merely  for  the  instruction  of  young  people)  ; 
but  as  such  a  subject  could  not,  of  course,  be  exhausted 
in  any  single  discussion,  I  reserved  the  conclusion  of  it 
for  the  present  period. 

As  it  does  not  appear  to  me  very  material  to  observe 
any  order  with  respect  to  this  subject,  I  shall  merely 
state  the  observations  it  suggests,  as  they  occur  to  my 
mind,  without  attempting  to  arrange  them. 

It  would  be  a  very  curious  question  to  agitate,  how  far 
understanding  is  transmitted  from  parent  to  child  ;  and 
within  what  limits  it  can  be  improved  by  culture : 
whether  all  men  are  born  equal,  with  respect  to  their 
understanding  ;  or,  whether  there  is  an  original  diversity 
antecedent  to  all  imitation  and  instruction.  The  analogy 
of  animals  is  in  favor  of  the  transmissibility  of  mind. 
Some  ill-tempered  horses  constantly  breed  ill-tempered 
colts ;  and  the  foal  never  has  seen  the  sire, — therefore, 
in  this,  there  can  be  no  imitation.  If  the  eggs  of  a  wild 
duck  are  hatched  under  a  tame  duck,  the  young  brood 
will  be  much  wilder  than  any  common  brood  of  poultry ; 
if  they  are  kept  all  their  lives  in  a  farm-yard,  and  treated 
kindly,  and  fed  well,  their  eggs  hatched  under  another 
bird  produce  a  much  tamer  race.  What  is  the  difference 
of  suspicion  and  fear  observable  in  the  two  broods,  but 
a  direct  transmission  of  mind,  without  the  possible 
intervention  of  any  imitation  or  teaching  ?     However, 

*  Page  95. 


ON  THE  CONDUCT  OF  THE  UNDERSTANDING.    257 

whether  mind  be  transmitted,  or  whether  it  be  affected 
afterward  by  the  earliest  circumstances  of  our  lives, 
certainly  the  fact  is,  that  at  the  very  earliest  periods  of 
our  existence,  the  strongest  differences  are  observable 
between  one  individual  and  another ;  which  difference 
no  subsequent  art  and  attention  can  ever  after  destroy. 

One  of  the  rarest  sort  of  understandings  we  meet  with 
in  the  world,  among  the  numerous  diversities  which  are 
produced,  is  an  understanding  fairly  and  impartially 
open  to  the  reception  of  truth,  coming  in  any  shape,  and 
from  any  quarter ;  and  it  will  be  of  considerable  use,  in 
a  discussion  on  the  conduct  of  the  understanding,  to 
consider  what  those  causes  are,  which  render  this  sort 
of  understanding  so  very  rare.  One  of  these  causes, 
and  the  first  I  shall  mention,  is  indolence.  Repose  is 
agreeable  to  the  human  mind ;  and  decision  is  repose. 
A  man  has  made  up  his  opinions  ;  he  does  not  choose  to 
be  disturbed  ;  and  he  is  much  more  thankful  to  the  man 
who  confirms  him  in  his  errors,  and  leaves  him  alone, 
than  he  is  to  the  man  who  refutes  him,  or  who  instructs 
him  at  the  expense  of  his  tranquillity.  Again :  our 
vanity  is  compromised  by  our  opinions  ;  we  have  ex- 
pressed them,  and  they  must  be  maintained  :  the  object 
is,  not  to  know  the  truth,  but  to  avoid  the  shame  of 
appearing  to  have  been  ignorant  of  it. 

Words  are  an  amazing  barrier  to  the  reception  of 
truth.  It  is  a  most  inestimable  habit  in  the  conduct  of 
the  understanding,  before  men  put  their  solemn  sanction 
to  any  opinion, — before  war,  before  peace,  before  expa- 
triation, and  all  the  great  events  of  life, — that  men 
should  ask  themselves  whether  or  not  the  words  by 
which  their  conduct  has  been  influenced,  have  really 
any  meaning  ;  and  if  so,  whether  they  have  the  meaning, 
in  such  instances,  intended  to  be  affixed  to  them.  Defini- 
tion of  words  has  been  commonly  called  a  mere  exercise 
of  grammarians ;  but  when  we  come  to  consider  the 
innumerable  murders,  proscriptions,  massacres,  and  tor- 
tures, which  men  have  inflicted  on  each  other  from 
mistaking  the  meaning  of  words,  the  exercise  of  defini- 
tion certainly  begins  to  assume  rather  a  more  dignified 
aspect. 


258  LECTURE    XIX. 

Then  comes  association  as  another  disturber.  A  man 
has  heard  such  opinions  very  often  ;  or,  "  I  have  heard 
them  when  I  was  young ;  and  therefore,  they  must  be 
ight ;" — "  I  hate  all  Dissenters,"  or  "  all  Roman  Cath- 
lics  ;" — or,  "  I  can  not  endure  Americans  ;" — and 
such  other  shocking  opinions,  upon  which  men  act  all 
their  lives, — and  act  very  badly,  and  furiously,  and  very 
ignorantly,  merely  because  such  opinions  have  been 
instilled  into  their  earliest  infancy,  and  because  they 
have  never  had  the  power  of  separating  two  ideas  which 
mere  accident  first  associated  together.  The  cure  for 
this  confined  and  narrow  species  of  understanding,  is  to 
see  many  things  and  many  men  ;  to  taste  of  the  sweet- 
ness of  truth  in  science,  and  to  cultivate  a  love  of  it ;  to 
have  the  words,  liberality,  candor,  knowledge,  often  in 
your  mouth,  and  at  length  they  will  get  into  your  heart ; 
to  ask  the  reason  of  things,  and  find  the  meaning  of 
words  ;  to  hear  patiently  any  one  who  confirms  what 
you  thought  before,  or  who  refutes  it ;  to  propose  to 
yourself  in  life  the  same  object,  as  the  law  proposes  in 
the  examination  of  evidence, — to  get  at  the  truth,  and 
nothing  but  the  truth.  Without  study,  no  man  can  ever 
do  any  thing  with  his  understanding.  But  in  spite  of  all 
that  has  been  said  about  the  sweets  of  study,  it  is  a  sort 
of  luxury,  like  the  taste  for  olives  and  coffee — not  natural, 
very  hard  to  be  acquired,  and  very  easily  lost.  Very 
few  persons  begin  to  study  from  the  love  of  knowledge, 
or  the  desire  of  doing  good ;  though  these  are  the  motives 
with  which  they  ought  to  begin :  but  they  begin  from 
the  shame  of  inferiority,  and  better  motives  come  after- 
ward. 

One  of  the  best  methods  of  rendering  study  agreeable 
is  to  live  with  able  men,  and  to  suffer  all  those  pangs 
of  inferiority,  which  the  want  of  knowledge  always  in- 
flicts. Nothing  short  of  some  such  powerful  motive, 
can  drive  a  young  person,  in  the  full  possession  of  health 
and  bodily  activity,  to  such  an  unnatural  and  such  an 
unobvious  mode  of  passing  his  life  as  study.  But  this  is 
the  way  that  intellectual  greatness  often  begins.  The 
trophies  of  Miltiades  drive  away  sleep.  A  young  man 
sees  the  honor  in  which  knowledge  is  held  by  his  fellow- 


ON  THE  CONDUCT  OF  THE  UNDERSTANDING.    259 

creatures ;  and  he  surrenders  every  present  gratification, 
that  he  may  gain  them.  The  honor  in  which  living 
genius  is  held,  the  trophies  by  which  it  is  adorned  after 
life,  it  receives  and  enjoys  from  the  feelings  of  men, — ■ 
not  from  their  sense  of  duty :  but  men  never  obey  this 
feeling,  without  discharging  the  first  of  all  duties ;  with- 
out securing  the  rise  and  growth  of  genius,  and  increas- 
ing the  dignity  of  our  nature,  by  enlarging  the  dominion 
of  mind.  No  eminent  man  was  ever  yet  rewarded  in 
vain  ;  no  breath  of  praise  was  ever  idly  lavished  upon 
him  ;  it  has  never  yet  been  idle  and  foolish  to  rear  up 
splendid  monuments  to  his  name:  the  rumor  of  these 
things  impels  young  minds  to  the  noblest  exertions,  cre- 
ates in  them  an  empire  over  present  passions,  inures 
them  to  the  severest  toils,  determines  them  to  live  only 
for  the  use  of  others,  and  leave  a  great  and  lasting  me- 
morial behind  them. 

Beside  the  shame  of  inferiority,  and  the  love  of  repu- 
tation, curiosity  is  a  passion  very  favorable  to  the  love 
of  study ;  and  a  passion  very  susceptible  of  increase  by 
cultivation.  Sound  travels  so  many  feet  in  a  second ; 
and  light  travels  so  many  feet  in  a  second.  Nothing 
more  probable :  but  you  do  not  care  how  light  and  sound 
travel.  Very  likely  :  but  make  yourself  care ;  get  up, 
shake  yourself  well,  pretend  to  care,  make  believe  to  care, 
and  very  soon  you  will  care,  and  care  so  much,  that  you 
will  sit  for  hours  thinking  about  light  and  sound,  and  be 
extremely  angry  with  any  one  who  interrupts  you  in 
your  pursuits ;  and  tolerate  no  other  conversation  but 
about  light  and  sound  ;  and  catch  yourself  plaguing 
every  body  to  death  who  approaches  you,  with  the  dis- 
cussion of  these  subjects.  I  am  sure  that  a  man  ought 
to  read  as  he  would  grasp  a  nettle: — do  it  lightly,  and 
you  get  molested ;  grasp  it  with  all  your  strength,  and 
you  feel  none  of  its  asperities.  There  is  nothing  so  hor- 
rible as  languid  study ;  when  you  sit  looking  at  the 
clock,  wishing  the  time  was  over,  or  that  somebody 
would  call  on  you  and  put  you  out  of  your  misery.  The 
only  way  to  read  with  any  efficacy,  is  to  read  so  heartily, 
that  dinner-time  comes  two  hours  before  you  expect  it. 
To  sit  with  your  Livy  before  you,  and  hear  the  geese 


260  LECTURE    XIX. 

cackling  that  saved  the  capitol ;  and  to  see  with  your 
own  eyes  the  Carthaginian  sutlers  gathering  up  the 
rings  of  the  Roman  knights  after  the  battle  of  Cannae, 
and  heaping  them  into  bushels ;  and  to  be  so  intimately 
present  at  the  actions  you  are  reading  of,  that  when  any- 
body knocks  at  the  door,  it  will  take  you  two  or  three 
seconds  to  determine  whether  you  are  in  your  own  study, 
or  in  the  plains  of  Lombardy,  looking  at  Hannibal's 
weather-beaten  face,  and  admiring  the  splendor  of  his 
single  eye; — this  is  the  only  kind  of  study  which  is  not 
tiresome  ;  and  almost  the  only  kind  which  is  not  useless  : 
this  is  the  knowledge  which  gets  into  the  system,  and 
which  a  man  carries  about  and  uses  like  his  limbs,  with- 
out perceiving  that  it  is  extraneous,  weighty,  or  incon- 
venient. 

To  study  successfully,  the  body  must  be  healthy,  the 
mind  at  ease,  and  time  managed  with  great  economy. 
Persons  who  study  many  hours  in  the  day,  should,  per- 
haps, have  two  separate  pursuits  going  on  at  the  same 
time, — one  for  one  part  of  the  day,  and  the  other  for  the 
other ;  and  these  of  as  opposite  a  nature  as  possible, — 
as  Euclid  and  Ariosto ;  Locke  and  Homer ;  Hartley  on 
Man,  and  Voyages  round  the  Globe ;  that  the  mind  may 
be  refreshed  by  change,  and  all  the  bad  effects  of  lassi- 
tude avoided.  There  is  one  piece  of  advice,  in  a  life 
of  study,  which  I  think  no  one  will  object  to ;  and  that 
is,  every  now  and  then  to  be  completely  idle, — to  do 
nothing  at  all :  indeed,  this  part  of  a  life  of  study  is  com- 
monly considered  as  so  decidedly  superior  to  the  rest, 
that  it  has  almost  obtained  an  exclusive  preference  over 
those  other  parts  of  the  system,  with  which  I  wish  to  see 
it  connected. 

It  has  often  been  asked  whether  a  man  should  study 
at  stated  intervals,  or  as  the  fit  seizes  him,  and  as  he 
finds  himself  disposed  to  study.  To  this  I  answer,  that 
where  a  man  can  trust  himself,  rules  are  superfluous. 
If  his  inclinations  lead  him  to  a  fair  share  of  exertion,  he 
had  much  better  trust  to  his  inclinations  alone ;  where 
they  do  not,  they  must  be  controlled  by  rules.  It  is  just 
the  same  with  sleep ;  and  with  every  thing  else.  Sleep 
as  much  as  you  please,  if  your  inclination  lead  you  only 


ON  THE  CONDUCT  OF  THE  UNDERSTANDING.    261 

to  sleep  as  much  as  is  convenient ;  if  not,  make  rules. 
The  system  in  every  thing  ought  to  be, — do  as  you  please 
— so  long  as  you  please  to  do  what  is  right.  Upon  these 
principles,  every  man  must  see  how  far  he  may  trust  to 
his  inclinations,  before  he  takes  away  their  natural  lib- 
erty. I  confess,  however,  it  has  never  fallen  to  my  lot 
to  see  many  persons  who  could  be  trusted ;  and  the 
method,  I  believe,  in  which  most  great  men  have  gone 
to  work,  is  by  regular  and  systematic  industry. 

A  little  hard  thinking  will  supply  the  place  of  a  great 
deal  of  reading  ;  and  an  hour  or  two  spent  in  this  man- 
ner sometimes  lead  you  to  conclusions,  which  it  would 
require  a  volume  to  establish.  The  mind  advances  in  its 
train  of  thought,  as  a  restive  colt  proceeds  on  the  road 
in  which  you  wish  to  guide  him  ;  he  is  always  running 
to  one  side  or  the  other,  and  deviating  from  the  proper 
path,  to  which  it  is  your  affair  to  bring  him  back.  I 
have  asked  several  men  what  passes  in  their  minds  when 
they  are  thinking ;  and  I  never  could  find  any  man  who 
could  think  for  two  minutes  together.  Every  body  has 
seemed  to  admit  that  it  was  a  perpetual  deviation  from  a 
particular  path,  and  a  perpetual  return  to  it ;  which,  im- 
perfect as  the  operation  is,  is  the  only  method  in  which 
we  can  operate  with  our  minds  to  carry  on  any  process 
of  thought.  It  takes  some  time  to  throw  the  mind  into 
an  attitude  of  thought,  or  into  any  attitude  ;  though  the 
power  of  doing  this,  and,  in  general,  of  thinking,  is  amaz- 
ingly increased  by  habit.  We  acquire,  at  length,  a 
greater  command  over  our  associations,  and  are  better 
enabled  to  pursue  one  object,  unmoved  by  all  the  other 
thoughts  which  cross  it  in  every  direction. 

One  of  the  best  modes  of  improving  in  the  art  of 
thinking,  is,  to  think  over  some  subject,  before  you  read 
upon  it ;  and  then  to  observe,  after  what  manner  it  has 
occurred  to  the  mind  of  some  great  master.  You  will 
then  observe  whether  you  have  been  too  rash  or  too 
timid ;  what  you  have  omitted,  and  in  what  you  have 
exceeded  ;  and  by  this  process  you  will  insensibly  catch 
a  great  manner  of  viewing  a  question.  It  is  right  in 
study,  not  only  to  think  when  any  extraordinary  inci- 
dent provokes  you  to  think,  but  from  time  to  time  to 


262  LECTURE    XIX. 

review  what  has  passed ;  to  dwell  upon  it,  and  to  see 
what  trains  of  thought  voluntarily  present  themselves 
to  your  mind.  It  is  a  most  superior  habit  of  some 
minds,  to  refer  all  the  particular  truths  which  strike 
them,  to  other  truths  more  general :  so  that  their  knowl- 
edge is  beautifully  methodized  :  and  the  general  truth 
at  any  time  suggests  all  the  particular  exemplifications  ; 
or  any  particular  exemplification,  at  once  leads  to  the 
general  truth.  This  kind  of  understanding  has  an  im- 
mense and  decided  superiority  over  those  confused  heads 
in  which  one  fact  is  piled  upon  another,  without  the 
least  attempt  at  classification  and  arrangement.  Some 
men  always  read  with  a  pen  in  their  hand,  and  commit 
to  paper  any  new  thought  which  strikes  them ;  others 
trust  to  chance  for  its  reappearance.  Which  of  these  is 
the  best  method  in  the  conduct  of  the  understanding, 
must,  I  should  suppose,  depend  a  great  deal  upon  the 
particular  understanding  in  question.  Some  men  can 
do  nothing  without  preparation ;  others,  little  with  it : 
some  are  fountains,  some  reservoirs.  My  very  humble 
and  limited  experience  goes  to  convince  me,  that  it  is  a 
very  useless  practice  ;  that  men  seldom  read  again  what 
they  have  committed  to  paper,  nor  remember  what  they 
have  so  committed  one  iota  the  better  for  their  additional 
trouble :  on  the  contrary,  I  believe  it  has  a  direct  ten- 
dency to  destroy  the  promptitude  and  tenacity  of 
memory,  by  diminishing  the  vigor  of  present  attention, 
and  seducing  the  mind  to  depend  upon  future  reference : 
at  least,  such  is  the  effect  I  have  uniformly  found  it  to 
produce  upon  myself;  and  the  same  remark  has  been 
frequently  made  to  me  by  other  persons,  of  their  own 
habits  of  study.  I  am  by  no  means  contending  against 
the  utility  and  expediency  of  writing ;  on  the  contrary, 
I  am  convinced  there  can  be  no  very  great  accuracy  of 
mind  without  it.  I  am  only  animadverting  upon  that 
exaggerated  use  of  it,  which  disunites  the  mind  from  the 
body  ;  renders  the  understanding  no  longer  portable,  but 
leaves  a  man's  wit  and  talents  neatly  written  out  in  his 
commonplace  book,  and  safely  locked  up  in  the  bottom 
drawer  of  his  bureau.  This  is  the  abuse  of  writing. 
The  use  of  it,  I  presume,  is,  to  give  perspicuity  and  ac- 


ON  THE  CONDUCT  OF  THE  UNDERSTANDING.    263 

curacy :  to  fix  a  habitation  for,  and  to  confer  a  name 
upon,  our  ideas,  so  that  they  may  be  considered  and  re- 
considered themselves,  and  in  their  arrangement.  Every 
man  is  extremely  liable  to  be  deceived  in  his  reflections 
till  he  has  habituated  himself  to  putting  his  thoughts  upon 
paper,  and  perceived  from  such  a  process,  how  often 
propositions  that  appeared  before  such  development  to 
be  almost  demonstrable,  have  vanished  into  nonsense 
when  a  clearer  light  has  been  thrown  upon  them.  I 
should  presume,  also,  that  much  writing  must  teach  a 
good  order  and  method  in  the  disposition  of  our  reason- 
ings ;  because  the  connection  of  any  one  part  with  the 
whole,  will  be  made  so  much  more  evident  than  it  can 
be  before  it  is  put  into  visible  signs.  Writing,  also,  must 
teach  a  much  more  accurate  use  of  language.  In  con- 
versation, any  language  almost  will  do  ;  that  is,  great 
indulgence  is  extended  to  the  language  of  talkers,  because 
a  talker  is  at  hand  to  explain  himself,  and  his  looks  and 
gestures  are  a  sort  of  comment  upon  his  words,  and  help 
to  interpret  them :  but  as  a  writer  has  no  such  auxiliary 
language  to  communicate  his  ideas,  and  no  power  of  re- 
explaining  them  when  once  clothed  in  language,  he  has 
nothing  to  depend  upon  but  a  steady  and  careful  use  of 
terms. 

The  advantage  conversation  has  over  all  the  other 
modes  of  improving  the  mind,  is,  that  it  is  more  natural 
and  more  interesting.  A  book  has  no  eyes,  and  ears, 
and  feelings ;  the  best  are  apt  every  now  and  then  to 
become  a  little  languid :  whereas  a  living  book  walks 
about,  and  varies  his  conversation  and  manner,  and  pre- 
vents you  from  going  to  sleep.  There  is  certainly  a 
great  evil  in  this,  as  well  as  a  good ;  for  the  interest  be- 
tween a  man  and  his  living  folio,  becomes  sometimes  a 
little  too  keen,  and  in  the  competition  for  victory  they 
become  a  little  too  animated  toward,  and  sometimes  ex- 
asperated against,  each  other :  whereas  a  man  and  his 
book  generally  keep  the  peace  with  tolerable  success  ; 
and  if  they  disagree,  the  man  shuts  his  book,  and  tosses 
it  into  a  corner  of  the  room,  which  it  might  not  be  quite 
so  safe  or  easy  to  do  with  a  living  folio.  It  is  an  incon- 
venience in  a  book,  that  you  can  not  ask  questions  ;  there 


264  LECTURE    XIX. 

is  no  explanation  :  and  a  man  is  less  guarded  in  conver- 
sation than  in  a  book,  and  tells  you  with  more  honesty 
the  little  niceties  and  exceptions  of  his  opinions  ;  whereas 
in  a  book,  as  his  opinions  are  canvassed  where  they  can 
not  be  explained  and  defended,  he  often  overstates  a 
point  for  fear  of  being  misunderstood ;  but  then,  on  the 
contrary,  almost  every  man  talks  a  great  deal  better  in 
his  books,  with  more  sense,  more  information,  and  more 
reflection,  than  he  can  possibly  do  in  his  conversation, 
because  he  has  more  time. 

There  are  few  good  listeners  in  the  world  who  make 
all  the  use  that  they  might  make,  of  the  understandings 
of  others,  in  the  conduct  of  their  own.  The  use  made 
of  this  great  instrument  of  conversation  is  the  display  of 
superiority,  not  the  gaining  of  those  materials  on  which 
superiority  may  rightfully  and  justly  be  founded.  Every 
man  takes  a  different  view  of  a  question  as  he  is  influ- 
enced by  constitution,  circumstances,  age,  and  a  thou- 
sand other  peculiarities ;  and  no  individual  ingenuity  can 
sift  and  examine  a  subject  with  as  much  variety  and 
success,  as  the  minds  of  many  men,  put  in  motion  by 
many  causes,  and  affected  by  an  endless  variety  of  acci- 
dents. Nothing,  in  my  humble  opinion,  would  bring  an 
understanding  so  forward,  as  this  habit  of  ascertaining 
and  weighing  the  opinions  of  others ; — a  point  in  which 
almost  all  men  of  abilities  are  deficient ;  whose  first  im- 
pulse, if  they  are  young,  is  too  often  to  contradict ;  or, 
if  the  manners  of  the  world  have  cured  them  of  that,  to 
listen  only  with  attentive  ears,  but  with  most  obdurate 
and  unconquerable  entrails.  I  may  be  very  wrong,  and 
probably  am  so,  but,  in  the  whole  course  of  my  life,  I  do 
not  know  that  I  ever  saw  a  man  of  considerable  under- 
standing respect  the  understandings  of  others  as  much  as 
he  might  have  done  for  his  own  improvement,  and  as  it 
wras  just  that  he  should  do. 

I  touched  a  little,  in  my  last  Lecture,  upon  that  habit 
of  contradicting,  into  which  young  men, — and  young 
men  of  ability  in  particular, — are  apt  to  fall ;  and  which 
is  a  habit  extremely  injurious  to  the  powers  of  the  under- 
standing. I  would  recommend  to  such  young  men,  an 
intellectual  regimen,   of  which  I   myself,  in   an  earlier 


UN  THE  CONDUCT  OF  THE  UNDERSTANDING.    265 

period  of  life,  have  felt  the  advantage  :  and  that  is,  to 
assent  to  the  two  first  propositions  that  they  hear  every 
day  ;  and  not  only  to  assent  to  them,  but,  if  they  can,  to 
improve  and  embellish  them  ;  and  to  make  the  speaker 
a  little  more  in  love  with  his  own  opinion  than  he  was 
before.  When  they  have  a  little  got  over  the  bitterness 
of  assenting,  they  may  then  gradually  increase  the  num- 
ber of  assents,  and  so  go  on  as  their  constitution  will 
bear  it;  and  I  have  little  doubt  that,  in  time,  this  will 
effect  a  complete  and  perfect  cure. 

It  is  a  great  thing  towrard  making  right  judgments,  if 
a  man  know  what  allowance  to  make  for  himself;  and 
what  discount  should  habitually  be  given  to  his  opinions, 
according  as  he  is  old  or  young,  French  or  English, 
clergyman  or  layman,  rich  or  poor,  torpid  or  fiery, 
healthy  or  ill,  sorrowful  or  gay.  All  these  various  cir- 
cumstances are  perpetually  communicating  to  the  objects 
about  them,  a  color  which  is  not  their  true  color :  whereas, 
wisdom  is  of  no  age,  nation,  profession,  or  temperament ; 
and  is  neither  sorrowful  nor  sad.  A  man  must  have  some 
particular  qualities,  and  be  affected  by  some  particular 
circumstances ;  but  the  object  is,  to  discover  what  they 
are,  and  habitually  to  allow  for  them. 

There  is  one  circumstance  I  would  preach  up,  morn- 
ing, noon,  and  night,  to  young  persons,  for  the  manage- 
ment of  their  understanding.  Whatever  you  are  from 
nature,  keep  to  it :  never  desert  your  own  line  of  talent. 
If  Providence  only  intended  you  to  write  posies  for  rings, 
or  mottoes  for  twelfth-cakes,  keep  to  posies  and  mottoes : 
a  good  motto  for  a  twelfth-cake  is  more  respectable  than 
a  villainous  epic  poem  in  twelve  books.  Be  what  nature 
intended  you  for,  and  you  will  succeed ;  be  any  thing 
else,  and  you  will  be  ten  thousand  times  worse  than 
nothing. 

If  black  and  white  men  live  together,  the  consequence 
is,  that,  unless  great  care  be  taken,  they  quarrel  and 
fight.  There  is  nearly  as  strong  a  disposition  in  men  of 
opposite  minds  to  despise  each  other.  A  grave  man 
can  not  conceive  what  is  the  use  of  a  wit  in  society ;  a 
person  who  takes  a  strong  common-sense  view  of  a  sub- 
ject, is  for  pushing  out  by  the  head  and  shoulders  an 


266  LECTURE    XIX. 

ingenious  theorist,  who  catches  at  the  lightest  and  faint- 
est analogies ;  and  another  man,  who  scents  the  ridic- 
ulous from  afar,  will  hold  no  commerce  with  him  who 
tastes  exquisitely  the  fine  feelings  of  the  heart,  and  is 
alive  to  nothing  else  :  whereas  talent  is  talent,  and  mind 
is  mind,  in  all  its  branches  !  Wit  gives  to  life  one  of  its 
best  flavors ;  common  sense  leads  to  immediate  action, 
and  gives  society  its  daily  motion  ;  large  and  compre- 
hensive views,  its  annual  rotation ;  ridicule  chastises 
folly  and  impudence,  and  keeps  men  in  their  proper 
sphere  ;  subtilty  seizes  hold  of  the  fine  threads  of  truth  ; 
analogy  darts  away  to  the  most  sublime  discoveries ; 
feeling  paints  all  the  exquisite  passions  of  man's  soul, 
and  rewards  him  by  a  thousand  inward  visitations  for 
the  sorrows  that  come  from  without.  God  made  it  all ! 
It  is  all  good  !  We  must  despise  no  sort  of  talent : 
they  all  have  their  separate  duties  and  uses  ;  all,  the 
happiness  of  man  for  their  object :  they  all  improve, 
exalt,  and  gladden  life. 

Caution,  though  it  must  be  considered  as  something 
very  different  from  talent,  is  no  mean  aid  to  every  spe- 
cies of  talent.  As  some  men  are  so  skillful  in  economy, 
that  they  will  do  as  much  with  a  hundred  pounds  as  an- 
other will  do  with  two,  so  there  is  a  species  of  men,  who 
have  a  wonderful  management  of  their  understandings, 
and  will  make  as  great  a  show,  and  enjoy  as  much  con- 
sideration, with  a  certain  quantity  of  understanding,  as 
others  will  do  with  the  double  of  their  portion :  and  this 
by  watching  times  and  persons ;  by  taking  strong  posi- 
tions, and  never  fighting  but  from  the  vantage-ground, 
and  with  great  disparity  of  numbers ;  in  short,  by  risking 
nothing,  and  by  a  perpetual  and  systematic  attention  to 
the  security  of  reputation.  Such  rigid  economy, — by 
laying  out  every  shilling  at  compound  interest, — very 
often  accumulates  a  large  stock  of  fame,  where  the  ori- 
ginal capital  has  been  very  inconsiderable ;  and,  of 
course,  may  command  any  degree  of  opulence,  where  it 
sets  out  from  great  beginnings,  and  is  united  with  real 
genius.  For  the  want  of  this  caution,  there  is  an  habitual 
levity  sometimes  fixed  upon  the  minds  of  able  men,  and 
a  certain  manner  of  viewing  and  discussing  all  questions 


ON  THE  CONDUCT  OF  THE  UNDERSTANDING.    267 

in  a  frivolous,  mocking  manner,  as  if  they  had  looked 
through  all  human  knowledge,  and  found  in  it  nothing 
but  what  they  could  easily  master,  and  were  entitled  to 
despise.  Of  all  mistakes  the  greatest,  to  live  and  to  think 
life  of  no  consequence ;  to  fritter  away  the  powers  of 
the  understanding,  merely  to  make  others  believe  that 
you  possess  them  in  a  more  eminent  degree  ;  and  gradu- 
ally to  diminish  your  interest  in  human  affairs,  from  an 
affected  air  of  superiority,  to  which  neither  yourself  nor 
any  human  being  can  possibly  be  entitled.  It  is  a  beau- 
tiful mark  of  a  healthy  and  right  understanding,  when  a 
man  is  serious  and  attentive  to  all  great  questions ;  when 
you  observe  him,  with  modesty  and  attention,  adding 
gradually  to  his  conviction  and  knowledge  on  such 
topics ;  not  repulsed  by  his  own  previous  mistakes,  not 
disgusted  by  the  mistakes  of  others,  but  in  spite  of  vio- 
lence and  error,  believing  that  there  is,  somewhere  or 
other,  moderation  and  truth, — and  that  to  seek  that 
truth  with  diligence,  with  seriousness,  and  with  con- 
stancy, is  one  of  the  highest  and  best  objects  for  which 
a  man  can  live. 

Some  men  get  early  disgusted  with  the  task  of  im- 
provement, and  the  cultivation  of  the  mind,  from  some 
excesses  which  they  have  committed,  and  mistakes  into 
which  they  have  been  betrayed,  at  the  beginning  of  life. 
They  abuse  the  whole  art  of  navigation  because  they 
have  stuck  upon  a  shoal ;  whereas,  the  business  is,  to 
refit,  careen,  and  set  out  a  second  time.  The  naviga- 
tion is  very  difficult;  few  of  us  get  through  it  at  first, 
without  some  rubs  and  losses, — which  the  world  are  al- 
ways ready  enough  to  forgive,  where  they  are  honestly 
confessed,  and  diligently  repaired.  It  would,  indeed,  be 
a  piteous  case,  if  a  young  man  were  pinioned  down 
through  life  to  the  first  nonsense  he  happens  to  write  or 
talk ;  and  the  world  are,  to  do  them  justice,  sufficiently 
ready  to  release  them  from  such  obligation :  but  what 
they  do  not  forgive  is,  that  juvenile  enthusiasm  and  error, 
which  ends  in  mature  profligacy ;  which  begins  with 
mistaking  what  is  right,  and  ends  with  denying  that 
there  is  any  thing  right  at  all ;  which  leaps  from  partial 
confidence  to  universal  skepticism  ;  wrhich  says,  "  there 


268  LECTURE    XIX. 

is  no  such  thing  as  true  religion  and  rational  liberty,  be- 
cause I  have  been  a  furious  zealot,  or  a  seditious  dema- 
gogue." Such  men  should  be  taught  that  wickedness  is 
never  an  atonement  for  mistake ;  and  they  should  be 
held  out  as  a  lesson  to  the  young,  that  unless  they  are 
content  to  form  their  opinions  modestly,  they  will  too 
often  be  induced  to  abandon  them  entirely. 

There  is  something  extremely  fascinating  in  quick- 
ness ;  and  most  men  are  desirous  of  appearing  quick. 
The  great  rule  for  becoming  so,  is,  by  not  attempting  to 
appear  quicker  than  you  really  are ;  by  resolving  to 
understand  yourself  and  others,  and  to  know  what  you 
mean,  and  what  they  mean,  before  you  speak  or  answer. 
Every  man  must  submit  to  be  slow  before  he  is  quick ; 
and  insignificant  before  he  is  important.  The  too  early 
struggle  against  the  pain  of  obscurity,  corrupts  no  small 
share  of  understandings.  Well  and  happily  has  that 
man  conducted  his  understanding,  who  has  learned  to 
derive  from  the  exercise  of  it,  regular  occupation  and 
rational  delight ;  who,  after  having  overcome  the  first 
pain  of  application,  and  acquired  a  habit  of  looking  in- 
wardly upon  his  own  mind,  perceives  that  every  day  is 
multiplying  the  relations,  confirming  the  accuracy,  and 
augmenting  the  number  of  his  ideas ;  who  feels  that  he 
is  rising  in  the  scale  of  intellectual  beings,  gathering  new 
strength  with  every  new  difficulty  which  he  subdues,  and 
enjoying  to-day  as  his  pleasure,  that  which  yesterday 
he  labored  at  as  his  toil.  There  are  many  consolations 
in  the  mind  of  such  a  man,  which  no  common  life  can 
ever  afford  ;  and  many  enjoyments  which  it  has  not  to 
give!  It  is  not  the  mere  cry  of  moralists,  and  the  flourish 
of  rhetoricians  ;  but  it  is  noble  to  seek  truth,  and  it  is  beau- 
tiful to  find  it.  It  is  the  ancient  feeling  of  the  human 
heart, — that  knowledge  is  better  than  riches  ;  and  it  is 
deeply  and  sacredly  true  !  To  mark  the  course  of  hu- 
man passions  as  they  have  flowed  on  in  the  ages  that 
are  past ;  to  see  why  nations  have  risen,  and  why  they 
have  fallen ;  to  speak  of  heat,  and  light,  and  winds ;  to 
know  what  man  has  discovered  in  the  heavens  above, 
and  in  the  earth  beneath ;  to  hear  the  chemist  unfold 
the  marvelous  properties  that  the  Creator  has  locked  up 


ON  THE  CONDUCT  OF  THE  UNDERSTANDING.    269 

in  a  speck  of  earth ;  to  be  told  that  there  are  worlds  so 
distant  from  our  sun,  that  the  quickness  of  light  travel- 
ing from  the  world's  creation,  has  never  yet  reached  us; 
to  wander  in  the  creations  of  poetry,  and  grow  warm 
again,  with  that  eloquence  which  swayed  the  democracies 
of  the  old  world  ;  to  go  up  with  great  reasoners  to  the 
First  Cause  of  all,  and  to  perceive  in  the  midst  of  all  this 
dissolution  and  decay,  and  cruel  separation,  that  there  is 
one  thing  unchangeable,  indestructible,  and  everlasting ; 
— it  is  worth  while  in  the  days  of  our  youth  to  strive 
hard  for  this  great  discipline ;  to  pass  sleepless  nights 
for  it,  to  give  up  to  it  laborious  days  ;  to  spurn  for  it 
present  pleasures  ;  to  endure  for  it  afflicting  poverty ;  to 
wade  for  it  through  darkness,  and  sorrow,  and  contempt, 
as  the  great  spirits  of  the  world  have  done  in  all  ages 
and  all  times. 

I  appeal  to  the  experience  of  any  man  who  is  in 
the  habit  of  exercising  his  mind  vigorously  and  well, 
whether  there  is  not  a  satisfaction  in  it,  which  tells  him 
he  has  been  acting  up  to  one  of  the  great  objects  of  his 
existence  ?  The  end  of  nature  has  been  answered  :  his 
faculties  have  done  that,  which  they  were  created  to  do, 
— not  languidly  occupied  upon  trifles, — not  enervated 
by  sensual  gratification,  but  exercised  in  that  toil  which 
is  so  congenial  to  their  nature,  and  so  worthy  of  their 
strength.  A  life  of  knowledge  is  not  often  a  life  of 
injury  and  crime.  Whom  does  such  a  man  oppress  ? 
with  whose  happiness  does  he  interfere  ?  whom  does  his 
ambition  destroy,  and  whom  does  his  fraud  deceive  ? 
In  the  pursuit  of  science  he  injures  no  man,  and  in  the 
acquisition  he  does  good  to  all.  A  man  who  dedicates 
his  life  to  knowledge,  becomes  habituated  to  pleasure 
which  carries  with  it  no  reproach  :  and  there  is  one 
security  that  he  will  never  love  that  pleasure  which  is 
paid  for  by  anguish  of  heart, — his  pleasures  are  all  cheap, 
all  dignified,  and  all  innocent  ;  and,  as  far  as  any  human 
being  can  expect  permanence  in  this  changing  scene,  he 
has  secured  a  happiness  which  no  malignity  of  fortune 
can  ever  take  away,  but  which  must  cleave  to  him  while 
he  lives, — ameliorating  every  good,  and  diminishing 
every  evil,  of  his   existence.     With  these   reflections, 


270  LECTURE    XIX. 

therefore,  upon  the  conduct  of  the  understanding,  I  close 
my  Lectures,  and  with  them  the  Institution,  for  the 
present  year :  but,  before  I  do  so,  I  wish  to  say  a  few 
words  respecting  this  latter  subject.  Another  institution 
has  now  risen  up  in  the  eastern  part  of  this  metropolis  ; 
and  there  appears  to  be  a  very  strong  desire  to  do  all 
that  can  be  done  for  the  increase  of  public  institutions, 
by  the  foundation  of  libraries,  and  by  lectures  given  to 
persons  of  both  sexes.  I  allow  myself  to  be  no  very 
impartial  judge  in  such  questions ;  but  still  I  must  take 
the  liberty  of  expressing  my  astonishment,  that  sensible 
and  reflecting  men  should  seriously  call  in  question  the 
value  and  importance  of  such  sort  of  establishments.  If 
a  man  come  here  with  his  mind  thoroughly  stored,  and 
his  habits  completely  formed,  and  complain  that  he 
learns  little  or  nothing ;  his  complaint  may  be  very  true, 
but  it  applies  to  all  other  places  of  education,  as  well  as 
to  this.  Such  a  man  has  got  beyond  what  the  aid  of 
others  can  do  for  him  ;  and  must  depend  upon  himself. 
Then,  again,  it  is  asked  what  are  the  great  and  mighty 
effects  upon  the  manners  of  the  age,  that  such  institutions 
are  to  produce  ?  Great  and  mighty  effects,  none  ;  but 
gradual  and  gentle  effects,  effects  worth  producing, 
sufficient  to  justify  the  expense  and  trouble  bestowed 
upon  institutions.  It  is,  surely,  not  unfair  to  suppose 
that,  of  the  numbers  resorting  to  this  Institution,  some 
have  felt  a  zeal  for  science,  which  they  might  not  other- 
wise have  felt ;  that  this  zeal  may,  in  some  instances, 
have  furnished  rational  amusement  to  a  whole  life ;  in 
others,  be  productive  of  deep  knowledge,  and  important 
discovery.  Is  it  nothing  to  inflame  young  minds  ?  is  it 
nothing  to  please  them  with  science,  and  to  convey  to 
them  the  first  suspicion,  that  exquisite  pleasure  is  to  be 
derived  from  the  mere  occupations  of  the  mind  ?  Is  it 
nothing  to  get  science  generally  talked  of,  though  it 
may  not  be  profoundly  discussed  ;  and  knowledge  widely 
honored,  though  it  may  not  be  greedily  pursued  ?  I 
can  not  consider  that  man  as  a  very  attentive  observer 
of  human  nature,  who  does  not  believe,  that  by  all  the 
conversation  and  occupation  which  this  Institution  has 
occasioned,    much    talent    has    been    awakened,    much 


ON  THE  CONDUCT  OF  THE  UNDERSTANDING.    271 

curiosity  for  knowledge  excited,  the  dominion  of  perilous 
idleness  abridged,  and  the  sum  of  laudable  exertions 
increased.  It  is  the  greatest  of  all  mistakes,  to  do 
nothing  because  you  can  only  do  little :  but  there  are 
men  who  are  always  clamoring  for  immediate  and 
stupendous  effects,  and  think  that  virtue  and  knowledge 
are  to  be  increased  as  a  tower  or  a  temple  are  to  be  in- 
creased, where  the  growth  of  its  magnitude  can  be 
measured  from  day  to  day,  and  you  can  not  approach  it 
without  perceiving  a  fresh  pillar,  or  admiring  an  added 
pinnacle.  "  But,  then,  such  institutions  increase  the 
number  of  smatterers."  To  be  sure  they  do !  And  is  it 
not  one  of  the  most  desirable  of  all  things  that  they 
should  be  increased  ?  If  you  plant  50,000  oaks  in  five 
acres,  have  you  not  a  better  chance  of  fine  trees  than 
when  you  only  plant  10,000  in  one  acre  ?  Has  the  pro- 
duction of  eggs  ever  yet  been  considered  as  unfavorable 
to  the  growth  of  chickens  ?  or  has  any  reasoner  yet 
contended,  that  in  any  country  where  boys  and  girls  are 
very  numerous,  men  and  women  must  be  very  scarce  ? 
Every  one,  in  every  art  and  science,  is  of  course,  at  first, 
nothing  but  a  smatterer.  Of  these,  some  can  not  ad- 
vance from  stupidity,  others  will  not  advance  from  idle- 
ness ;  some  get  in  the  wrong  road  from  error,  some  quit 
the  right  from  affectation  ;  a  few  only  reach  the  destined 
point, — but,  of  course,  the  number  of  these  last  will  be 
directly  and  immediately  in  the  proportion  of  those  who 
started  for  the  race.  In  short,  I  have  no  manner  of 
doubt,  if  these  institutions  conduct  themselves  with  as 
much  judgment  as  they  have  hitherto  done, — if  they 
provide  able  and  upright  men  to  read  lectures  in  this 
place ;  and  if  those  men  do,  without  countenancing  any 
narrow  and  illiberal  opinions,  and  without  lending  them- 
selves to  childish  jealousies  and  groundless  alarms, 
display  at  all  times  an  honest  zeal  for  sound  knowledge, 
rational  freedom,  and  manly  piety, — I  see  no  reason  why 
this  Institution  may  not  prosper,  and  be  considered  as  a 
valuable  addition  to  the  public  establishments  of  this 
country.  That  such  may  be  its  fate,  is  my  most  sincere 
desire/and  ardent  prayer  :  and  with  these  wishes  for  its 


272  LECTURE    XIX. 

prosperity,  and  with  my  hearty  thanks  to  this  elegant 
and  accomplished  audience,  for  the  attention  with 
which  I  have  been  heard,  I  conclude  my  Lectures; 
wishing  to  you  all,  every  possible  happiness  till  we 
meet   again. 


LECTURE    XX. 


ON   THE   ACTIVE   POWERS   OF  THE  MIND. 

DIVISIONS    OF   THE     ACTIVE    POWERS     INTO    APPETITES,    DESIRES,    AND     AFFEC- 
TIONS.  OF    WHAT    IS    MEANT    BY    THE    TERM    "  PASSION." OF     THE    ORIGIN 

OF    OUR    PASSIONS. THE  APPLICATION    OF    DR.  HARTLEY'S    THEORY    TO    THE 

PASSIONS. SOME     REMARKS     ON    THE     IMPERFECTIONS     AND     BEAUTIES    OF 

THAT    THEORY. 

I  have  had  the  pleasure  of  reading  here  two  sets  of 
Lectures, — the  one  upon  the  Understanding,  the  other 
upon  Taste.  I  come  now  to  the  consideration  of  the 
Active  Powers  of  the  Mind,  or  those  principles  of  our 
nature  which  impel  us  to  action.  The  distinction 
between  the  intellectual  and  the  active  powers,  or  the 
understanding  and  the  will,  is  one  of  very  great  antiquity; 
far  anterior,  I  fancy,  to  the  time  of  Aristotle :  and  it 
appears  to  be  one  of  the  most  convenient  divisions,  for 
arranging  the  complicated  powers  of  the  human  mind. 

The  two  popular  terms  which  express  this  division 
are  head  and  heart ;  it  being  very  natural  that  men,  in 
their  speculations  concerning  the  connection  of  body  and 
mind,  should  suppose  that  particular  parts  of  the  mind 
were  more  particularly  associated  with  particular  parts 
of  the  body.  I  need  scarcely  say  that  the  notion  is 
quite  fanciful  ; — that  it  would  be  quite  as  philosophical 
to  say  of  an  able  man  that  he  had  a  good  liver,  or  to 
praise  a  virtuous  man  for  the  soundness  of  his  lungs, 
as  it  would  be  to  speak  of  the  head  of  the  one,  or  the 
heart  of  the  other.  I  mention  this  bodily  distinction,  not 
from  any  idea  of  the  justice  of  the  hypothesis  it  involves, 
but  merely  to  show  that  the  common  notions  of  man- 
kind have  always  gone  along  with  this  distinction  of  the 
powers  of  the  mind,  into  those  which  are  intellectual  and 
those  which  are  active. 


274  LECTURE    XX. 

This  science  of  mental  philosophy  has  often  been 
represented  as  vague  and  unsatisfactory.  It  certainly 
is  not  capable  of  that  precision  which  many  others  are  ; 
but  its  most  skeptical  enemies  would  not  pretend  to 
confound  an  idea  with  a  feeling.  Nobody  would  pre- 
tend to  say  that  the  mind  is  affected  in  the  same  manner 
by  hard,  soft,  green,  or  blue,  as  it  is  by  anger,  shame, 
hatred,  and  love.  Every  one  feels  the  necessity  of 
dividing  the  two  classes,  and  naturally  conceives  that 
they  are  subjected  to  very  different  laws.  It  is  not  im- 
possible, perhaps,  that  we  might  possess  every  intel- 
lectual faculty  we  now  have,  without  feeling  the  influence 
of  one  single  appetite,  desire,  or  affection.  Constituted 
as  we  now  are,  there  are  moments  in  our  existence,  when 
the  soul  of  passion  seems  to  be  entirely  laid  to  sleep,  and 
when  outward  objects  are  noticed  by  the  understanding 
without  producing  the  slightest  determination  of  the 
will :  and  there  are  opposite  states  of  tempest  and  con- 
vulsion, when  the  passions  confound  the  understanding 
in  all  its  operations,  and  make  it  a  false  and  faithless 
observer  of  the  world  without.  In  old  age,  in  melan- 
choly, and  in  sickness,  the  mind  appears  to  be  diseased, 
from  the  decay  of  all  its  active  powers.  In  madness 
they  all  exist  in  excess.  The  great  variety  in  human 
character, — that  astonishing  difference  between  us,  which 
leaves  one  man  in  the  little  field  where  he  was  born,  and 
drives  another  out  to  command  armies  and  senates, — 
this  difference  principally  depends  upon  the  different  de- 
grees of  curiosity  and  imitation  in  each,  upon  the  empire 
which  fear  and  anger  exercise  over  them ;  upon  how 
they  love,  and  how  they  hate ;  upon  the  nature  and  de- 
gree of  all  those  active  powers,  which  go  to  make  up 
the  constitution  of  their  minds. 

The  active  principles  of  our  nature  are  divided  by 
Mr.  Stewart  and  Dr.  Reid  into  appetites,  desires,  affec- 
tions, self-love,  and  the  moral  faculty.  They  call  those 
feelings  appetites  which  take  their  rise  from  the  body, 
— such  as  hunger  and  thirst,  which  operate  periodically 
after  certain  intervals,  and  cease  only  for  a  time,  upon 
the  attainment  of  a  particular  object.  They  mean  by 
desires,  those  feelings  which  do  not  take  their  rise  from 


ON    THE    ACTIVE    PUWEKS    OF    THE    MIND.  275 

the  body ;  which  do  not  operate  periodically,  and  do  not 
cease  upon  the  attainment  of  a  particular  object.  The 
most  remarkable  active  principles  belonging  to  this  class, 
they  consider  to  be  the  desire  of  knowledge,  or  curiosity, 
the  desire  of  society,  the  desire  of  power,  and  the  desire 
of  superiority,  or  the  principle  of  emulation.  Under 
the  title  of  affections,  they  comprehend  all  those  active 
principles  whose  direct  and  ultimate  object  is  the  com- 
munication of  joy  or  pain  to  our  fellow-creatures.  Ac- 
cording to  this  definition,  resentment,  revenge,  hatred, 
belong  to  the  class  of  our  affections,  as  well  as  gratitude 
or  pity.  When  I  explain  what  they  mean  by  self-love, 
and  the  moral  faculty,  I  must  do  it  at  full  length.  This 
division  of  the  active  powers  I  shall  in  general  adopt, 
and  propose  to  begin  with  the  affections. 

The  popular  word  for  affections  in  their  highest  degree, 
is  passion ;  and  the  objection  to  using  it,  is,  that  it  only 
means  the  excess  of  the  feeling :  for  instance,  we  could 
not  say  that  a  man  experienced  the  passion  of  anger 
who  felt  a  calm  indignation  at  a  serious  injury  he  had 
received ;  we  should  only  think  ourselves  justifiable  in 
applying  the  term  passion  if  he  were  transported  be- 
yond all  bounds  if  his  reason  were  almost  vanquished, 
and  if  the  bodily  signs  of  that  passion  were  visible  in 
his  appearance.  However,  if  I  should  hereafter  use  the 
common  term  passion,  instead  of  the  more  accurate  term 
affection,  I  beg  to  be  understood  to  mean  any  degree  of 
a  feeling,  however  great  or  small.  Emotion  will  be  found 
to  mean  a  short  and  transient  fit  of  passion  :  however,  I 
shall  use  it  synonymously  with  the  words  passion  and 
affection  ;  or,  if  I  do  not,  I  shall  say  so. 

It  must  be  allowed,  I  suppose,  that,  in  strictness,  noth- 
ing can  be  meant  by  the  passion,  but  the  mere  feeling  of 
mind.  I  am  under  the  influence  of  violent  rage  from 
some  sudden  and  serious  injury  which  I  have  experi- 
enced ;  but  the  quick  respiration,  the  red  cheek,  the 
frowning  eyebrow,  and  the  fixed  eye,  are  not  the  affection 
of  anger, — they  are  only  the  signs  which  that  affection 
of  anger  produces  on  my  body.  In  the  same  manner,  I 
have  a  distinct  impression  of  the  person  who  has  injured 
me;  he   appears   almost    to    be   standing   before   me:   I 


276  LECTURE    XX. 

know  also  that  I  have  been  assassinated  in  reputation,  or 
ruined  in  fortune  :  but  all  these  ideas  are  not  the  pas- 
sion of  anger  :  they  are  the  causes  of  that  passion,  but 
not  the  passion  itself.  Again,  I  have  the  strongest  desire 
to  inflict  an  exemplary  punishment  upon  the  person 
who  has  done  me  this  injury  : — this  is  the  affection  or 
passion  of  resentment ;  the  consequence  of  anger,  but  by 
no  means  anger  itself. 

In  the  same  manner,  a  child  loves  its  mother.  The 
mother  is  the  cause,  which  excites  the  affection  of  love 
in  the  mind  of  the  child.  The  affection  may  possibly 
excite  the  child  to  do  all  the  good  in  his  power  to  his 
mother ; — these  are  its  consequences ;  the  affection  it- 
self is  distinct  from  either  :  therefore,  in  speaking  of 
passions  and  affections,  it  should  be  remembered  we  are 
merely  speaking  of  certain  feelings  of  the  mind,  which 
it  is  impossible  to  define.  You  may  state  the  causes  of 
such  feelings,  and  their  consequences ;  but  it  is  as  impos- 
sible to  define  them,  as  it  is  to  define  sour,  sweet,  and 
savory.  Men  call  the  particular  feeling  annexed  to 
shame,  by  one  name  ;  the  particular  feeling  annexed  to 
anger,  by  another.  They  are  only  believed  to  be  the 
same  in  different  individuals,  because  they  proceed  from 
the  same  causes,  and  produce  the  same  effects.  It  ap- 
pears to  me  of  some  consequence  to  remember  this  ; 
and  to  separate,  in  all  discussions  upon  these  very  diffi- 
cult subjects,  the  pure  affection  of  mind,  from  what 
gives  it  birth,  and  from  what  it  induces  men  to  do  when 
it  is  produced. 

The  first  question  which  arises  in  the  consideration  of 
human  passions,  is  their  origin.  Concerning  what  pas- 
sions we  do  actually  possess,  there  can  be  no  dispute ; 
but  the  question  is,  respecting  their  origin.  With  how 
many  passions  and  desires  are  we  born  ?  is  there  any 
such  original  principle  in  our  nature  as  a  desire  of  power, 
a  desire  of  society,  a  desire  of  esteem  ;  or,  are  all  these 
feelings, — whose  existence  in  the  mature  man  no  one 
doubts, — capable  of  being  resolved  into  any  more  simple 
principles  ?  The  same  with  the  passions  :  are  men  born 
with  the  original  capacity  of  feeling  gratitude  for  good, 
and  resentment  for  evil  ?  or  can  it  be  shown  what  the 


ON    THE    ACTIVE    POWERS    OF    THE    MIND.  277 

history  of  these  feelings  is  ;  can  their  origin  be  traced, 
and  their  progress  be  clearly  shown  ?  The  former 
opinions  are  entertained  at  present  by  the  school  of  Reid, 
in  Scotland ;  were  taught  by  Hutcheson  ;  and  were,  I 
fancy,  the  commonly  received  opinions  on  the  subject 
before  the  time  of  Hartley.  The  disciples  of  this  school 
may  differ  a  little  in  their  enumeration  of  the  original 
active  principles  of  our  nature, — but  they  all  agree  that 
they  are  numerous  ;  that  no  account  can  be  given  of  their 
origin  ;  that  they  are  there,  because  such  is  the  constitu- 
tion of  our  nature  ;  that  it  is  an  ultimate  fact,  and  can  not 
be  reasoned  upon.  For  instance,  Dr.  Reid  would  say,  that 
"  the  passion  of  resentment  is  an  original  passion,  im- 
planted by  Providence  in  the  breast  of  all  men  for  the 
purposes  of  self-preservation."  Dr.  Hartley  would  say, 
"  the  passion  is  there,  and  Providence  intended  it  for 
self-preservation  ;  but  it  was  not  placed  originally  in  the 
human  mind  :  provision,  and  very  wise  and  very  curious 
provision,  is  made,  that  it  should  uniformly  spring  up 
there ;  but  it  is  not  an  original,  inexplicable  impulse. 
I  can  show  you  the  period  when  it  does  not  exist ;  I  can 
explain  to  you  by  what  means  it  is  generated ;  I  can 
trace  it  throughout  all  its  gradations,  up  to  the  perfect 
life  and  entire  development  of  the  passion."  This  is 
about  the  state  of  the  question  between  Reid  and  Hart- 
ley, respecting  the  origin  of  the  active  powers.  I  shall 
now  give  some  short  account  of  the  progress  and  nature 
of  Dr.  Hartley's  opinions. 

Every  body  here  present  knows  what  is  meant  by  the 
association  of  ideas.  When  two  ideas  have,  by  any  ac- 
cident, been  joined  together  frequently  in  the  understand- 
ing, the  one  idea  has,  ever  after,  the  strongest  tendency 
to  bring  back  the  other:  for  instance,  the  celebrated 
Descartes  wras  very  much  in  love  with  a  lady  who 
squinted  ;  he  had  so  associated  that  passion  with  obliqui- 
ty of  vision,  that  he  declares,  to  the  latest  hour  of  his 
life  he  could  never  see  a  lady  with  a  cast  in  her  eye, 
without  experiencing  the  most  lively  emotions.  In  the 
same  manner,  to  take  the  most  trite  of  all  instances,  the 
ideas  of  spirits  and  of  darkness,  are  so  strongly  united 
together  in  our  infancy,  that,  it  becomes  an  exceedingly 


278  LECTURE    XX. 

difficult  thing  to  separate  them  in  mature  age.  There 
is  no  reason  upon  earth,  why  twelve  o'clock  in  the  mid- 
dle of  the  day,  or  why  dinner-time,  should  not  be  the 
proper  season  for  ghosts,  instead  of  the  middle  of  the 
night.  It  has  pleased  anility  to  make  another  arrange- 
ment ;  and  now,  as  I  have  said  before,  the  two  ideas  of 
darkness  and  supernatural  agency  are  so  firmly  united 
together,  that  it  is  frequently  almost  impossible  to  sep- 
arate them.  This  is  what  is  meant  by  the  principle 
of  association  :  and  this  principle  was,  I  believe,  first 
noticed  by  Locke ;  but  he  had  recourse  to  it  only  to  ex- 
plain those  sympathies  and  antipathies  which  he  calls  un- 
natural, in  distinction  from  those  which  he  says  are  born 
with  us ;  and  nothing  can  be  more  imperfect  than  his 
notions  concerning  the  nature,  cause,  and  effects,  of  the 
principle. 

Afterward,  Mr.  Gay,  a  clergyman  in  the  West  of 
England,  endeavored  to  show  the  possibility  of  deducing 
all  our  passions  and  affections  from  association,  in  a  dis- 
sertation prefixed  to  Bishop  Law's  translation  of  King's 
"  Origin  of  Evil :"  but  he  supposed  the  love  of  happiness 
to  be  an  original  and  implanted  principle ;  and  that  the 
passions  and  affections  were  deducible  only  from  sup- 
posing sensible  and  rational  creatures  dependent  upon 
each  other  for  their  happiness.  It  was  upon  hearing  of 
Mr.  Gay's  opinion,  that  Dr.  Hartley  turned  his  thonghts 
upon  the  subject ;  and  at  length,  after  giving  the  closest 
attention  to  it,  in  a  course  of  several  years,  it  appeared 
to  him  very  probable,  not  only  that  all  our  intellectual 
pleasures  and  pains,  but  that  all  the  phenomena  of  mem- 
ory, imagination,  volition,  reasoning,  and  every  other 
mental  affection  and  operation,  are  only  different  modes 
or  cases  of  the  associations  of  ideas ;  so  that  nothing  is 
necessary  to  make  any  man  whatever  he  is,  than  a  ca- 
pacity of  feeling  pleasure  and  pain,  and  the  principle  of 
association.  These  are  the  simple  rudiments  and  begin- 
nings of  our  nature ;  these  are  the  fountains  of  sorrow 
and  of  joy  ;  from  hence  come  all  the  passions  which 
gladden,  and  all  which  embitter  life.     Hence  come 

"  The  radiant  smiles  of  Joy,  the  applauding  hand 
Of  Admiration  ;  hence  the  bitter  shower 


ON    THE    ACTIVE    POWERS    OF    THE    MIND.  279 

That  sorrow  sheds  upon  a  brother's  grave ; 
Hence  the  dumb  palsy  of  nocturnal  Fear, 
And  those  consuming  tires  that  gnaw  the  heart 
Of  panting  Indignation." 

Such  is  the  celebrated  theory  of  Dr.  Hartley  ;  in  which 
I  have  totally  passed  over  his  doctrine  of  vibrations,  be- 
cause, as  every  body  knows,  it  is  very  foolish,  and  no 
way  connected  with  the  valuable  part  of  his  system. 

I  shall  now  give  two  or  three  specimens  of  the  man- 
ner in  which  the  various  active  powers  are  traced  up  to 
simple  pleasure  and  pain,  guided  by  association  ;  and  I 
will  begin  with  one  of  the  passions, — the  passion  of  fear. 
Ask  any  one,  whence  comes  the  passion  of  fear  ?  and  he 
will  tell  you  it  is  an  original  passion  of  our  nature :  at 
the  same  time  it  is  evident  to  observation,  that  a  child  is 
wholly  unacquainted  with  fear  till  he  has  received  some 
hurt.  If  fear  were  coeval  with  birth  ;  or  a  capacity  of 
being  afraid,  implanted  in  us  independently  of  all  experi- 
ence, a  child  of  four  months  old  would  be  afraid  of  the 
flame  of  a  candle,  the  first  moment  he  saw  it, — he  would 
shrink  from  a  viper,  and  be  frightened  into  fits  at  the 
sight  of  a  loaded  pistol.  Try  a  child  of  that  age  with  a 
lighted  candle  ;  he  is  so  far  from  having  any  notion  of 
fear,  that  his  first  effort  is  to  grasp  it :  when  he  has  been 
once  burned,  and  suffered  pain,  the  passion  of  fear — which 
is  nothing  more,  in  its  early  state,  than  the  expectation 
of  pain — is  immediately  formed.  Put  the  candle  to  him 
again  :  he  has  now  associated  two  ideas, — the  light  of 
the  flame,  and  the  pain  of  his  body  ;  the  appearance  of 
the  flame,  therefore,  immediately  gives  him  the  notion 
that  he  is  going  to  suffer, — and  this  feeling  is  what  we 
call  fear.  In  the  same  manner,  a  child  learns  to  be  afraid 
of  sharp  weapons,  of  animals  that  bite  and  scratch,  and 
of  all  the  common  objects  of  juvenile  terror  ;  and,  per- 
ceiving into  how  many  inconveniences  he  is  betrayed 
by  his  ignorance,  falls  into  a  general  apprehension  of  all 
striking  and  unknown  objects,  because  he  can  not  ap- 
preciate the  degree  of  mischief  to  be  expected  from  them. 
This,  I  confess,  appears  to  me  a  plain  and  true  history  of 
the  passion  of  fear.  If  it  were  an  original  passion,  the 
sight  of  a  dagger  would  as  immediately  produce  fear  in 


280  LECTURE    XX. 

a  young  child,  as  the  touch  of  ice  would  produce  cold  in 
him :  but  before  he  can  experience  this  passion,  it  is 
necessary  he  should  suffer  pain ;  and  it  is  necessary  that 
the  object  which  has  inflicted  the  pain  should  again  be 
presented  to  him,  in  order  to  recall  the  feeling  which  has 
been  associated  to  it. 

I  observe,  what  those  persons  stand  out  for  the  most, 
who  are  the  most  conversant  with  children,  is  the  fear 
of  falling  which  they  express,  even  though  they  have 
never  fallen.  But  does  it  not  seem  rather  capricious  and 
singular,  that,  among  all  the  innumerable  perils  by  which 
children  are  surrounded,  the  fear  of  falling  should  be  the 
only  one  against  which  they  have  any  instinctive  warn- 
ing ?  A  child  will  eat  poison  if  it  be  sweet ;  set  himself 
on  fire,  play  with  gunpowder,  swallow  needles,  run  into 
any  kind  of  mischief,  from  which  he  has  suffered  no 
previous  pain ;  and  amid  these  ten  thousand  avenues  to 
destruction,  we  believe  that  the  only  one  he  is  warned 
not  to  approach,  is  that  which  would  break  his  arm  or 
his  leg,  or  give  him  a  great  blow  on  the  head.  So  that 
the  child  may  be  burned,  poisoned,  stabbed,  cut,  mangled, 
or  any  thing  else,  provided  he  is  not  bruised.  But  what 
is  the  meaning  of  a  child  being  afraid  instinctively  ?  If 
he  is  afraid  of  an  object,  he  must,  I  suppose,  have  an  idea 
of  that  object.  Is  he,  then,  born  with  the  ideas  of  fire, 
of  boiling  water,  of  sharp-pointed  weapons,  of  medical 
gentlemen,  and  all  other  objects  which  can  do  him 
harm  ; — or,  if  Locke  has  driven  us  out  of  these  anti- 
quated notions,  shall  we  suppose,  that  he  has  no  previous 
acquaintance  with  them  ;  but  that  when  they  are  per- 
ceived for  the  first  time,  the  passion  of  fear  immediately 
takes  place  ?  Is  a  child,  then,  startled  by  a  brass  blun- 
derbuss the  first  time  he  sees  it  ?  "  But  this  is  not  a 
natural  object :"  true  ;  but  is  he,  then,  startled  by  arse- 
nic, any  more  than  with  powdered  sugar  ?  To  what  do 
these  instinctive  terrors  extend  ?  It  appears  to  me,  I 
confess,  quite  impossible  to  make  common  sense  of  any 
supposition  but  that  of  Hartley,  which  says,  that  pain  is 
the  teacher  of  fear.  Before  pain  there  is  no  fear ;  and 
when  that  passion  exists,  however  great  the  distance, 


ON    THE    ACTIVE    POWERS    OF    THE    MIND.  281 

and  however  circuitous  the  course,  there  is  the  fountain- 
head  from  which  it  sprang. 

I  will  now  consider  two  of  the  most  important  princi- 
ples of  our  nature, — the  desire  of  doing  harm  to  others, 
and  the  desire  of  doing  good  ; — resentment  and  benevo- 
lence. It  will  be  curious  to  observe  how  far  they  fall 
into  this  doctrine  of  association.  A  young  child,  soon 
after  his  birth,  has  not  the  least  desire  to  do  good  or 
harm  to  any  one ;  he  has  no  such  passions :  and  it  is  our 
business  to  explain  how  he  gets  them.  The  food  he  eats 
or  drinks  gives  him  pleasure  ;  but  observing,  in  process 
of  time,  that  the  nurse  is  always  present  when  he  re- 
ceives his  food,  the  sight  of  the  nurse  gives  him  pleasure, 
because  it  reminds  him  of  his  food ;  yet  in  process  of 
time  the  idea  of  the  food  is  obliterated,  and  the  sight  of 
the  nurse  gives  him  pleasure,  and,  without  the  interve- 
ning idea  that  she  is  useful  to  him,  he  loves  her  immedi- 
ately after  his  appetite  of  hunger  is  satisfied,  as  well  as 
before  :  his  passion  for  her,  which  first  proceeded  from 
an  interested  motive,  becomes  quite  disinterested ;  and 
he  loves  her  without  the  slightest  reference  to  the  ad- 
vantages she  procures  him.  This  is  the  origin  of  his 
love  for  his  nurse :  and  then,  as  all  kindred  ideas  are 
very  easily  associated  together,  he  proceeds  from  loving 
her  to  desiring  her  good ;  for,  perceiving  that  other  peo- 
ple like  what  he  likes,  it  is  very  natural,  that  the  idea  of 
his  own  gratification  in  eating,  should  suggest  the  idea 
of  the  nurse's  gratification  ;  and  that  he  should  offer  her 
a  little  morsel  of  his  apple  or  his  cake,  or  any  puerile 
luxury  which  he  happens  to  be  enjoying.  The  associa- 
tion is  easy  to  be  comprehended,  and  seems  perfectly 
natural.  Besides,  a  child  begins  very  early  to  associate 
his  own  advantage  with  benevolence.  Cake,  and  com- 
mendation, the  parent  of  cake,  are  lavished  upon  the 
child  who  shows  a  disposition  to  please  others.  Cuffs, 
and  frowns,  and  hard  words,  are  the  portion  of  a  selfish 
and  a  malevolent  child :  he  begins  with  loving  benevo- 
lence for  the  advantage  it  affords  him,  and  ends  with 
loving  it  for  itself:  he  is  not  born  with  love  of  any  thing, 
but  merely  with  the  capacity  of  feeling  pleasure  ;  which 
he  first  feels  for  the  milk,  then  for  the  mother,  because 


282  LECTURE    XX. 

she  gives  him  the  milk,  then  for  her  own  sake :  then,  as 
she  makes  him  happy,  association  gives  him  the  idea  of 
making  her  happy ;  and  he  gains  so  much  by  benevo- 
lence, that  he  loves  it  first  for  the  advantages  it  affords, 
then  for  itself.  Reverse  all  this,  and  you  will  have  the' 
history  and  progress  of  the  malevolent  passions.  A 
young  child  hates  nobody.  If  you  were  to  pinch  or 
scratch  him,  he  would  feel  pain ;  if  you  did  it  often,  he 
would  associate  the  idea  of  you  with  the  idea  of  pain, 
and  would  hate  you,  first,  on  account  of  the  ideas  you 
suggested,  then  hate  you  plainly  and  simply  without  any 
cause.  After  he  had  learned  by  observation,  that  you 
were  similarly  constituted  with  himself,  he  would  be  led 
to  associate  your  painful  feelings  with  his  own ;  and  thus 
a  foundation  of  malevolence  toward  you  would  be  laid. 
Again :  a  child  is  deterred  from  doing  any  thing  by 
threats  and  by  pain  ;  and  he  perceives  that  other  per- 
sons are  deterred  by  similar  means ;  he  therefore  asso- 
ciates these  ideas  with  prevention ;  threatens  and  beats 
whoever  contradicts  him  ;  and  cherishes  resentment  as 
a  means  of  gratifying  his  will,  and  effecting  whatever 
object  he  has  in  view.  It  is  quite  impossible  that  a  child 
can  be  born  with  any  feeling  of  resentment.  He  can 
never  tell  that  the  way  to  prevent  another  child  from 
beating  him,  is  to  beat  that  child  again ;  it  would  be  an 
enormous  thing  that  he  who  does  not  yet  know  black 
from  scarlet,  should  be  acquainted  with  the  dominion 
which  pain  has  over  the  mind,  and  make  use  of  it  to  ac- 
complish his  purposes  ;  and  yet,  such  is  the  opinion  that 
they  adopt,  who  consider  this  passion  as  innate,  and  coe- 
val with  our  existence. 

I  have  said  that  the  child  first  associates  with  his 
mother  the  idea  of  food,  and  loves  her  in  consequence 
of  this  association ;  then  loves  her  from  disinterested 
motives,  without  any  association  at  all :  and  I  have  said 
that  he  hates  his  tormentor,  first,  from  associating  pain- 
ful ideas  with  his  appearance ;  and  then  hates  him  with- 
out any  association  at  all.  This  leads  me  to  the  men- 
tion of  a  very  general,  and  very  important  law  of  asso- 
ciation :  and  that  is  this  ; — the  medium  idea  by  which 
two  others  are  associated,  is  always  at  length  destroyed, 


ON    THE    ACTIVE    POWERS    OF    THE    MIND.  283 

and  the  two  others  coalesce,  and  make  the  association : 
for  instance,  whatever  we  love  for  its  uses,  we  love  for 
itself.  A  man  begins  to  love  his  horse  because  he  car- 
ries him  well  out  hunting :  he  ends  with  loving  the 
horse  without  the  slightest  reference  to  his  utility ;  and 
keeps  him  when  he  is  blind  and  lame,  with  as  much  at- 
tention as  in  the  vigor  of  his  youth.  Here,  the  middle 
term  (if  I  may  use  the  expression),  which  united  together 
the  two  ideas  of  horse  and  affection,  was  utility :  that 
middle  term  was  effaced ;  and  the  affection  remains 
for  the  horse,  when  all  notion  of  utility  is  completely  at 
an  end.  The  middle  term  here  is  like  a  cramp  or  a 
screw  put  upon  two  pieces  of  wood,  just  glued  together, 
— it  serves  to  keep  them  together  at  first,  but  can  be  re- 
moved with  perfect  safety,  when  the  cement  is  solid,  and 
the  union  complete. 

I  remember  once  seeing  an  advertisement  in  the  pa- 
pers, with  which  I  was  much  struck  ;  and  which  I  will 
take  the  liberty  of  reading : — "  Lost,  in  the  Temple  Cof- 
fee House,  and  supposed  to  be  taken  away  by  mistake, 
an  oaken  stick,  which  has  supported  its  master  not  only 
over  the  greatest  part  of  Europe,  but  has  been  his  com- 
panion in  his  journeys  over  the  inhospitable  deserts  of 
Africa ;  whoever  will  restore  it  to  the  waiter,  will  confer 
a  very  serious  obligation  on  the  advertiser ;  or,  if  that  be 
any  object,  shall  receive  a  recompense  very  much  above 
the  value  of  the  article  restored."  Now,  here  is  a  man 
who  buys  a  sixpenny  stick,  because  it  is  useful ;  and 
totally  forgetting  the  trifling  causes  which  first  made  his 
stick  of  any  consequence,  speaks  of  it  with  warmth  and 
affection  ;  calls  it  his  companion ;  and  would  hardly 
have  changed  it,  perhaps,  for  the  gold  stick  which  is  car- 
ried before  the  king.  But  the  best  and  strongest  exam- 
ple of  this,  and  of  the  customary  progress  of  association, 
is  in  the  passion  of  avarice.  A  child  only  loves  a  guinea 
because  it  shines ;  and,  as  it  is  equally  splendid,  he  loves 
a  gilt  button  as  well.  In  after-life,  he  begins  to  love 
wealth,  because  it  affords  him  the  comforts  of  existence; 
and  then  loves  it  so  well,  that  he  denies  himself  the  com- 
mon comforts  of  life  to  increase  it.  The  uniting  idea  is 
so  totally  forgotten,  that  it  is  completely  sacrificed  to  the 


284  LECTURE    XX. 

ideas  which  it  unites.  Two  friends  unite  against  the 
person  to  whose  introduction  they  are  indebted  for  their 
knowledge  of  each  other ;  exclude  him  their  society,  and 
ruin  him  by  their  combination. 

I  might,  upon  the  same  principle,  proceed  to  explain 
a  vast  variety  of  passions  and  desires,  which  are  all 
commonly  spoken  of  as  original  principles  of  our  nature. 
For  instance :  nothing  appears  to  me  more  decided  and 
indisputable,  than  that  men  are  not  born  with  any  love 
of  power,  any  love  of  society,  or  any  love  of  esteem  ;  all 
these  feelings, — which  we  all  experience  so  strongly, — 
have  all  sprung  from  pleasure,  pain,  and  association  ; 
and  are  entirely  explicable  upon  that  system.  But,  if  I 
were  to  go  through  with  them,  I  should  merely  be  tread- 
ing over  the  same  ground  I  have  passed  already  :  the  prin- 
ciple once  understood,  there  is  no  great  difficulty  in 
making  the  application  to  particular  cases. 

I  beg  leave  again  to  observe, — and  I  request  the  par- 
ticular attention  of  my  hearers  to  it, — that  the  only  dif- 
ference between  the  friends  of  this  doctrine  of  associa- 
tion, and  their  antagonists,  is,  respecting  the  origin  of 
all  these  feelings  and  passions.  Respecting  their  exist- 
ence, there  is  none.  Every  one  agrees  that  there  is  a 
love  of  parents,  a  love  of  country,  a  desire  of  esteem, 
and  a  desire  of  knowledge  :  the  only  question  is,  respect- 
ing their  origin.  Are  they  primitive  ?  Can  no  account 
be  given  of  their  causes  ?  or  from  what  are  they  de- 
rived ?  They  say,  in  tracing  up  a  river  to  its  source, 
we  find  it  bursting  out  from  innumerable  streams.  We 
say,  this  is  very  true ;  but  you  stop  short  too  soon,  you 
don't  look  far  enough  ;  we  can  show  you  your  numerous 
fountains  distinctly  terminating  in  one, — the  plain,  an- 
cient, and  undoubted  source  of  the  stream.  The  admi- 
rable simplicity  of  this  doctrine  ought  certainly  to  rec- 
ommend it  to  universal  attention  ;  as,  independent  of 
other  considerations,  it  wears  the  face  of  that  simplicity 
in  causes,  and  variety  in  effects,  which  we  discover  in 
every  other  part  of  nature. 

"  In  human  works,  though  labor'd  on  with  pain, 
A  thousand  movements  scarce  one  purpose  gain  : 


ON  THE  ACTIVE  POWERS  OF  THE  MIND.      285 

In  God's,  one  single  can  its  end  produce ; 
Yet  serves  to  second,  too,  some  other  use." 

IN  or  let  any  man  imagine  that  the  power  and  goodness 
of  Providence  is  diminished  in  the  estimation  of  man,  by 
that  philosophy  which  teaches  that  we  come  into  the 
world  void  of  all  passions,  and  acquire  them  by  these 
simple  means.  Is  it  wiser  and  greater  to  move  every 
planet  by  a  fresh  power,  or  to  guide  them  all  in  their 
spheres  by  the  simple  principle  of  gravity  ?  Did  Newton 
degrade  our  notions  of  Providence  when  he  discovered 
one  great  law  presiding  over  heaven  and  earth  ?  Did 
Locke  diminish  our  admiration  of  the  human  mind,  and 
of  Him  who  made  it,  when  he  showed  us  how  all  its 
infinite  variety  of  ideas  grow  out  of  mere  sensation  and 
reflection  ?  To  show  us  that  a  variety  of  movements  in 
a  machine  all  proceed  from  one  and  the  same  original 
power,  is  to  show  us  that  that  machine  has  been  con- 
ceived clearly  and  grandly  ;  for  imbecility,  and  want  of 
resources,  are  shown  by  calling  in  a  vast  variety  of 
powers  to  produce  one  plain  effect.  But  opulence  of 
thought,  and  immensity  of  mind,  are  shown  by  producing 
an  infinite  variety  of  effects,  from  one  simple  cause. 
Providence  did  not  originally  implant  in  men  a  love  of 
esteem,  or  a  love  of  knowledge ;  but  Providence  im- 
planted that  capacity of  feeling  pleasure  and  pain,  and 
that  facility  of  association,  which  as  infallibly  produce 
the  love  of  esteem  and  knowledge,  as  if  they  had  been 
original  feelings  of  the  mind. 

But  what  says  Dr.  Reid  and  his  school  ? — That  Prov- 
idence, which  moves  all  the  heavenly  bodies  by  one 
simple  cause ; — that  Providence,  which  darts  the  blood 
of  man  through  a  million  vessels  by  the  contraction  of 
one  single  organ ; — that  Providence,  always  so  simple 
and  so  grand,  is  in  the  fabrication  of  the  mind,  alone 
complicated  and  confused,  arranging  without  order,  and 
planning  without  art.  What  was  the  first  command  ? 
Not  "  let  there  be  colors  ?"  not  "  let  the  herb  be  green, 
and  the  heavens  be  blue  :"  but,  "  let  there  be  light !" 
and  forthwith  there  was  every  variety  of  color!  So 
with  us  ;  the  first  mandate  was  not,  "let  man  be  affected 


286  LECTURE    XX. 

with  anger  and  gratitude,"  but  "  let  man  feel ;"  and  then, 
matter  let  loose  upon  him,  with  all  its  malignities,  and 
all  its  pleasures,  roused  up  in  him  his  good  and  his  bad 
passions,  and  made  him  as  he  is, — the  best  and  the  worst 
of  created  beings. 

I  have  heard  it  said,  as  an  objection  against  this  theory, 
that  there  is  a  neatness  in  it,  an  arrondissement,  which 
gives  it  a  great  appearance  of  quackery  and  imposture. 
This  is  very  likely ;  but  I  am  not  contending  that  the 
theory  looks  as  if  it  were  true,  but  merely  that  it  is  true. 
At  the  same  time,  there  is  a  great  deal  of  merit  in  the 
observation ;  for  discoveries  in  general,  especially  upon 
such  very  intricate  subjects,  are  more  ragged,  uneven, 
and  incomplete ;  there  is  here  a  little  light,  and  there  a 
great  deal  of  darkness ;  in  one  place  you  make  a  great 
inroad,  and  then  you  are  stopped  by  impenetrable  bar- 
riers :  but  here  is  one  master-key  which  opens  every 
bolt  and  barrier;  a  philosophy  which  explains  every 
thing,  and  leaves  the  whole  subject  at  rest  forever.  All 
these  are  certainly  presumptive  evidences  against  the 
theory ;  but  if  it  perform  all  that  it  promise,  those  pre- 
sumptive evidences  are,  of  course,  honorably  repelled. 

I  beg  leave,  however,  before  I  conclude  this  lecture, 
to  repeat  again  and  again,  that  I  by  no  means  undertake 
to  burthen  myself  with  the  whole  of  Dr.  Hartley's  theory. 
The  vibrations,  every  one  laughs  at.  The  doctrines  of 
necessity,  which  he  has  chosen  to  add  on  to  it,  I  have 
nothing  to  do  with  :  the  subject  is  improper  for  this 
place ;  and  the  whole  question,  rightly  considered,  more 
a  question  of  words,  than  of  any  thing  else. 

The  great  principle  of  Hartley,  which  I  am  exclusively 
endeavoring  to  maintain,  is  this, — that  all  the  passions 
are  derived  from  pleasure  and  pain,  guided  by  associa- 
tion. For  that  opinion  I  am  responsible,  and  for  no 
other.  I  now  take  leave  of  it  with  saying,  that,  in  my 
very  confined  and  inconsiderable  attention  to  such  sort 
of  subjects,  I  have  felt  a  security  and  a  satisfaction  in 
this  system,  which  I  never  did  in  any  other :  every  day 
convinces  me  more  and  more,  that  it  is  a  discovery  of 
vast  importance ;  fresh  facts  arrange  themselves  under 
it ;  it  solves  new  difficulties ;  and  as  it  remains  longer 


ON    THE    ACTIVE    POWERS    OF    THE    MIND.  "287 

in  the  mind,  it  increases  in  durability  and  improves  in 
strength. 

"  Love,  Hope,  and  Joy, — fair  Pleasure's  smiling  train ; 
Hate,  Fear,  and  Grief, — the  family  of  Pain : 
These,  mix'd  with  art,  and  to  due  bounds  confin'd, 
Make  and  maintain  the  pleasures  of  the  mind ; 
The  lights  and  shades,  whose  well-accorded  strife 
Gives  all  its  strength  and  color  to  our  life." 


LECTURE    XXI. 

ON  THE   EVIL    AFFECTIONS. 

OF  THE  MALEVOLENT  AND  UNPLEASANT  PASSIONS  *.  THEY  ARE  ALL  DERIVED 
FROM  PAIN,  GUIDED  BY  ASSOCIATION. OF  THE  GENERATION  OF  RESENT- 
MENT, AND  THE  RESTRAINTS  IMPOSED  UPON  IT  BY  EDUCATION. OF  MAL- 
ICE,   FEAR,    SHAME,    AND    THE    PAIN    OF    INACTIVITY. 

There  have  been  almost  as  many  different  arrange- 
ments of  the  passions,  as  there  have  been  writers  who 
have  treated  on  the  subject.  Some  writers  have  placed 
them  in  centrast  to  each  other,  as  Hope  and  Fear,  Joy 
and  Sorrow.  Some  have  considered  them  as  they  are 
personal,  relative,  or  social ;  some  according  to  their  influ- 
ence at  different  periods  of  life ;  others,  as  they  relate  to 
past,  present,  or  future  time.  The  academicians  ad- 
vanced, that  the  principal  passions  were  Fear,  Hope, 
Joy,  and  Grief.  They  included  Aversion  and  Despair 
under  the  passion  of  Grief;  Hope,  Fortitude,  and  Anger 
under  Desire.  Dr.  Hartley  has  arranged  the  passions 
under  five  grateful  and  five  ungrateful  ones  :  the  grateful 
ones  are,  Love,  Desire,  Hope,  Joy,  and  Pleasing  Recol- 
lection ;  the  ungrateful  ones,  Hatred,  Aversion,  Fear, 
Grief,  and  Displeasing  Recollection.  Dr.  Watts  and 
Mr.  Grove  have  both  followed  different  arrangements, 
which  I  will  not  detain  you  by  stating :  whoever  is  de- 
sirous of  seeing  them  at  length,  may  consult  Dr.  Cogan's 
book  on  the  Passions,  who  has  also  proposed  and  followed 
an  arrangement  of  his  own. 

Conceiving  that  we  are  born  merely  with  a  capacity  of 
feeling  pleasure  and  pain,  and  that  from  this  capacity, 
directed  by  association,  all  the  affections  of  our  nature 
spring,  it  appears  to  me  that  the  plainest  and  most  nat- 
ural arrangement  will  be,  to  divide  the  affections  accord- 


ON    THE    EVIL    AFFECTIONS.  289 

ing  to  their  origin,  as  they  are  derived  from  the  one  or 
the  other  of  these  great  principles  of  our  nature,  and  as 
they  belong  to  the  family  of  pleasure  or  of  pain. 

I  shall  begin  with  those  affections  of  the  mind  which 
are  formed  by  painful  associations ;  premising,  that  I  by 
no  means  intend  to  pursue  this  subject  as  far  as  it  would 
lead  me,  or  to  enter  into  very  minute  and  accurate  dis- 
tinctions, because  such  an  analysis  would  be  excessively 
tedious,  and  would  better  become  a  professed  treatise 
on  the  passions,  than  a  course  of  Lectures  on  Moral 
Philosophy. 

All  ungrateful  passions  are  the  sensation  of  evil :  but 
it  may  be  evil  long  passed  (for  the  remembrance  of  which 
we  have  no  name)  ;  or  it  may  be  present  evil,  either  of 
body  or  mind,  and  from  different  causes,  as  pain,  grief, 
and  fear;  or  it  may  be  the  apprehension  of  evil  to  come, 
which  is  fear.  From  the  sensations  of  evil,  comes  the 
desire  of  inflicting  it,  or  malevolence.  Hence  anger, 
jealousy,  malice,  envy,  and  all  the  train  of  bad  passions, 
which  are  all  compounded  of  the  same  principles, — dis- 
pleasure, and  a  desire  of  displeasing ;  or,  in  more  com- 
mon words,  hatred  and  revenge.  So  that  all  the  vices 
of  our  nature  come  from  remembering  evil,  feeling  it,  an- 
ticipating it,  and  inflicting  it  (the  consequence  of  these 
three  preceding  states). 

The  difference  between  grief  and  pain  is,  that  we 
apply  the  expression  of  grief  to  those  uneasy  sensations 
which  have  not  the  body  for  their  immediate  cause ; 
pain,  to  those  which  have.  The  loss  of  reputation  oc- 
casions grief;  the  loss  of  a  limb,  pain. 

Grief  is  that  uneasy  state  of  mind  which  proceeds  from 
the  loss  of  some  good,  or  the  presence  of  some  evil.  A 
singular  circumstance  respecting  grief,  is,  that  there  is 
not  always,  in  the  suffering  person,  a  very  ready  dispo- 
sition to  get  rid  of  his  sorrow :  he  clings  to  the  remem- 
brance of  it ;  gathers  round  about  him  every  thing  which 
can  recall  the  idea  of  what  he  has  lost ;  and  appears  to 
derive  his  principal  consolation  from  those  trains  of  ideas 
which  an  indifferent  person  would  consider  as  best  cal- 
culated to  exasperate  his  affliction.  The  reason  of  this, 
I  take  to  be,  that  it  is  pleasant  to  be  pitied,  pleasant  even 

N 


290  LECTURE    XXI. 

to  think  how  we  should  be  pitied,  if  the  world  were  well 
acquainted  with  all  the  minute  circumstances  of  our 
l0SSj — with  all  the  fine  ties  and  endearments  which  bound 
us  to  the  object  of  our  affections.  We  are  fond  of  rep- 
resenting ourselves  to  our  own  fancies  as  objects  of  the 
most  profound  and  universal  sympathy.  Death  never 
took  away  such  a  father,  such  a  husband,  or  such  a  son ; 
we  dwell  upon  our  misfortunes,  and  magnify  them,  till 
we  derive  a  sort  of  consolation  from  reflecting  on  that 
exquisite  pity  to  which  we  are  entitled,  and  which  we 
should  receive  if  the  whole  extent  of  our  calamity  were 
as  well  known  to  others  as  to  ourselves.  We  dwell 
upon  our  affliction,  however,  not  merely  from  the  sym- 
pathy to  which  it  appears  to  entitle  us,  but  because  in 
that  train  of  ideas  there  are  many  that  give  an  immedi- 
ate relief  of  pleasure,  which,  though  purchased  dearly 
by  the  subsequent  pain  to  which  they  expose  us,  are 
still  resorted  to  for  that  immediate  pleasure.  For  in- 
stance, a  man  reduced  to  sudden  poverty,  may  take  some 
pleasure  in  thinking  a  moment  on  the  luxuries  which  he 
has  been  accustomed  to  enjoy  :  he  pays  dearly  enough  for 
such  reflections,  when  he  is  forced  to  perceive  what  his 
present  state  is ;  but  still  the  train  of  thought  has  been 
pleasant  for  the  moment, — it  has  given  him  some  im- 
mediate relief,  and  therefore  he  has  indulged  it.  "Grief/' 
says  Constance,— 

"  Grief  fills  the  room  up  of  my  absent  child, 
Lies  in  his  bed,  walks  up  and  down  with  me ; 
Puts  on  his  pretty  looks,  repeats  his  words, 
Remembers  me  of  all  his  gracious  parts, 
Stuffs  out  his  vacant  garments  with  his  form." 

These  two  causes  appear  to  me  to  explain  the  singular 
phenomenon,  that  sorrow  should  ever  be  pleasant,  and 
justify  the  usual  poetical  expression  of  the  luxury  of 
grief. 

Grief,  it  should  be  observed,  seems  to  be  a  general 
term  for  all  sensations  of  evil,  when  that  sensation  has 
not  a  specific  name. 

That  sensation  of  evil  which  proceeds  from  the  loss  of 
esteem,  has  a  specific  name ;  it  is  called  shame.     Most 


ON    THE    EVIL    AFFECTIONS.  291 

of  the  other  sensations  of  evil, — as  that  which  proceeds 
from  the  loss  of  friends,  or  the  loss  of  fortune,  or  from 
frustrated  ambition, — pass  under  the  common  and  in- 
clusive name  of  grief;  though  there  is  no  reason  that  I 
know  of,  why  that  uneasiness  which  proceeds  from  the 
loss  of  power,  should  not  have  a  specific  name  as  well 
as  that  which  proceeds  from  the  loss  of  esteem. 

Grief  produces  resentment  or  not,  according  as  it  is 
accompanied  with  the  notion  of  its  being  occasioned  by 
a  voluntary  and  rational  agent.  For  instance,  a  young 
boy  walks  under  an  old,  ruinous  building ;  a  stone  falls 
on  his  head,  and  he  is  killed :  in  this  case  you  feel  no- 
thing but  pure  affliction  : — but  you  learn  immediately 
after,  that  some  wicked  and  malicious  person  has  pushed 
down  this  stone  upon  the  child's  head,  and  killed  him : 
here  grief  is  immediately  followed  by  resentment ;  and 
you  are  actuated  by  the  strongest  and  most  irresistible 
motives  to  do  all  possible  harm  to  the  murderer  of  your 
son.  So  that  resentment  is  always  preceded  by  uneasy 
sensations  of  the  body,  that  we  call  pain  ;  or  of  the  mind, 
which  we  call  grief;  though  grief  and  pain  do  not  al- 
ways produce  resentment.  It  will  be  curious  to  investi- 
gate the  origin  and  progress  of  this  difference,  and  to 
decide  how  it  is,  that  precisely  the  same  degree  of  grief 
does  sometimes  produce  violent  resentment,  sometimes 
not. 

As  I  stated  in  the  last  Lecture,  it  is  quite  impossible 
to  suppose  that  a  child  is  born  with  all  those  compound 
notions  which  enter  into  the  word  resentment ;  for,  ob- 
serve all  the  knowledge  which  this  implies :  first,  you 
suppose  the  child  of  a  month  old,  or  a  day  old,  to  know 
that  my  hand  guided  the  pin  with  which  I  pricked  him ; 
next,  that  I  can  guide  my  hand  where  I  please  ;  next, 
that  I  feel  pain  as  he  does,  and  that  he  has  a  right  to 
inflict  the  same  pain  as  I  have  inflicted  upon  him. 
There  is  not  the  slightest  evidence  that  the  child  has 
any  one  of  all  these  ideas  ;  and  I  would  just  as  soon  be- 
lieve that  a  child  just  born  could  say  the  three  first  books 
of  Ariosto  by  heart,  as  that  he  is  born  with  any  such 
wisdom.  He  learns  by  experience,  that  other  human 
creatures  feel  pleasure  and  pain  as  well  as  himself;  that 


292  LECTURE    XXI. 

they  are  allured  by  pleasure  to  do  him  good,  and  by  pain 
intimidated  from  doing  him  harm.  Hence  the  origin  of 
his  benevolence  and  his  resentment ;  of  his  desire  to  do 
harm,  or  to  do  good,  to  his  fellow-creatures.  A  young 
child  of  seven  or  eight  months  old,  if  you  take  him  away 
from  any  object  that  attracts  his  attention,  will  cry,  ex- 
press great  grief,  and  all  that  agitation  of  body,  and  im- 
patience of  mind,  which  is  frequently  occasioned  by 
grief ;  but  there  is  not  the  slightest  appearance  of  resent- 
ment. It  never  appears  to  occur  to  a  child  of  that  age, 
that  you  are  the  cause  of  this  privation ;  that  you  can 
feel  pain,  and  that  therefore  he  will  inflict  it.  It  is  long 
after  this  period,  that  he  acquires  this  very  compound 
idea ;  and  he  acquires  it,  as  he  acquires  the  power  of 
knowing  black  from  white,  and  tall  from  short, — by 
observation. 

It  may  appear  very  extraordinary  that  there  should 
be  such  a  prodigious  tendency  in  after-life  to  connect 
grief  with  resentment,  when  they  were  not  originally 
connected  together  by  nature.  But  I  think  the  doctrine 
of  acquired  perceptions,  must  convince  any  man  how 
much  the  work  of  association  is  like  an  original  impres- 
sion of  nature  ;  and  how  impossible  it  is  to  distinguish 
the  laminae  put  together  by  association,  from  those 
which  were  originally  solid  and  continuous.  Besides, 
too,  all  similar  passions  naturally  generate  each  other,  as 
we  shall  see  hereafter ;  and  there  is  a  very  strong 
resemblance  in  the  effects  of  grief,  pain,  and  resentment ; 
and,  having  once  been  joined  together,  the  one  has  the 
strongest  possible  disposition  to  produce  the  other.  I 
am  not  speaking  of  the  highest-refined  London  grief, — 
the  grief  of  civilization  and  softness ;  but  the  grief  of  a 
savage  and  a  child.  The  grief  of  nature  in  its  first  stage 
is  a  violent,  impatient,  irritating  passion,  very  much 
resembling  anger.  The  natural  effect  of  grief  and  pain 
is,  to  cry  out  as  loud  as  possible,  and  to  kick  and  sprawl 
in  all  possible  directions ;  and  I  believe,  if  people  would 
do  so  much  more  than  they  do,  they  would  be  all  the 
better  for  it.  The  sitting  on  monuments  smiling,  and 
the  green  and  yellow  melancholy,  is  quite  a  subsequent 
business,  entirely  the  result  of  education. 


ON    THE"    EVIL    AFFECTIONS.  293 

Having  acquired  the  feeling  of  resentment,  the  child 
is,  of  course,  very  unlearned  at  first  in  the  application 
of  it ;  he  has  not  yet  learned  what  objects  have  life  and 
feeling,  what  not ;  and  at  the  age  of  two  years,  when 
thrown  into  a  violent  rage,  it  is  not  impossible  but  that 
he  will  beat  the  chair  upon  which  he  has  knocked  his 
head,  or  the  table  that  has  thrown  him  down,  as  vehe- 
mently as  if  they  were  capable  of  suffering  from  his 
malevolence.  In  a  very  little  time  he  learns  the  folly  of 
this  ;  distinguishes  between  objects  that  feel,  and  objects 
that  do  not ;  and  is  more  learned  and  skillful  in  directing 
the  effusions  of  his  wrath.  After  he  has  learned  to 
direct  his  resentment  only  against  objects  that  have  life 
and  feeling,  education  limits  the  confines  of  his  resent- 
ment still  more,  by  infusing  in  his  mind  the  idea  of 
justice  ;  by  instructing  him  that  he  must  not  resent 
unless  the  injury  has  been  done  intentionally, — unless  he 
who  has  been  guilty  of  it,  has  done  it  without  any  fair 
and  lawful  pretext ;  and  that  after  all,  where  it  can  not 
be  forgiven  with  propriety,  it  must  be  punished  with 
moderation.  So  that  education  teaches  us  at  last  to 
support  a  large  class  of  griefs  without  gratifying  the 
propensity  to  resentment ;  and  confines  the  gratification 
of  that  passion  to  where  the  injury  has  been  inflicted  by 
a  rational  being,  intentionally  and  unjustly.  There  still 
exists,  however,  through  life,  the  strongest  disposition  to 
connect  together  grief,  pain,  and  resentment ;  and  it 
requires  the  strongest  and  steadiest  appeal  to  the  princi- 
ples of  justice  to  keep  it  down.  We  often  kick  a  stock 
or  a  stone,  over  which  we  have  stumbled,  from  the  mere 
habit  we  have  acquired  of  associating  resentment  with 
pain.  We  feel  a  sort  of  resentment  against  the  person 
who  brings  us  bad  news.  Zinzis  Khan  cut  off  the  head 
of  one  of  his  favorites  for  venturing  to  inform  him  of  a 
partial  defeat  his  troops  had  sustained.  The  raising  up 
of  the  passion  of  resentment,  causes  an  immediate  diver- 
sion of  the  passion  of  grief;  and  therefore,  the  feeling  of 
resentment  in  cases  of  grief,  seems  to  be  sought  after,  in 
some  badly  constituted  minds,  as  a  sort  of  relief.  Sup- 
pose any  person  were  to  purchase  a  piece  of  painted 
glass  for  three  or  four  hundred  pounds ;  it  is  discovered 


294  LECTURE    XXI. 

to  have  fallen  down,  and  is  broken  to  pieces  ; — the  dis- 
position of  resentment  to  follow  displeasure  is  so  great, 
that  I  am  afraid  it  would  be  some  relief  to  find  that  this 
had  been  knocked  down  by  a  careless  servant ;  and  that 
the  master  would  not  be  very  well  pleased  with  his 
servant,  who  could  give  him  such  an  account  of  the 
business  as  precluded  the  master  from  all  possibility  of 
scolding.  A  child  is  rarely  deformed,  or  rarely  dies,  by 
the  hand  of  nature ;  but,  according  to  the  parent,  the 
nurse  has  mismanaged  it,  or  the  physician  destroyed  it 
by  his  ignorance.  Men  in  violent  pain  are  excessively 
irascible,  very  strongly  disposed  to  quarrel  and  find 
fault.  A  gamester,  who  has  lost  a  thousand  pounds, 
comes  home,  and  relieves  his  uneasiness  by  quarreling 
with  his  wife  and  children,  and  abusing  his  servants. 
All  these  are  instances  of  the  strong  disposition  of  man- 
kind to  associate  together  grief  and  resentment ;  in  these 
instances,  the  disposition  is  so  strongly  evinced  that  it 
entirely  overpowers  all  sense  of  justice. 

Contempt  is  that  painful  emotion  which  a  human 
being  excites  in  you,  by  his  degrading  qualities  or  con- 
duct. Contempt  only  diminishes  resentment,  in  those 
injuries  which  depend  upon  the  character  of  the  person 
who  inflicts  them.  A  libel  may  be  written  by  a  man  so 
infamous,  that  all  the  severe  things  he  has  said  are 
rendered  harmless  by  the  name  which  is  subscribed  to 
them ;  here,  my  resentment  is  less,  because  the  grief  I 
feel,  is  so  much  less,  from  having  been  traduced  by  such 
a  man :  but  if  the  same  man  were  to  set  my  house  on 
fire,  or  assault  me  with  a  large  stick,  the  general  con- 
temptibility  of  his  character  would  certainly  have  very 
little  effect  in  diminishing  my  resentment.  Contempt 
diminishes  resentment  by  diminishing  danger — the  cause 
of  resentment. 

Peevishment  is  resentment,  excited  by  trifles.  Envy 
is  resentment,  excited  by  superiority, — not  by  all  su- 
periority, but  by  that  to  which  you  think  you  are  fairly 
entitled :  for  a  plowman  does  not  envy  a  king ;  but  he 
envies  another  plowman  who  has  a  shilling  a  week 
more  than  he  has.  Malice  is  pure  malevolence;  a  desire 
to  inflict  injury  without  a  cause;  an  abstract  love  of 


ON    THE    EVIL    AFFECTIONS.  295 

doing  mischief; — at  least,  so  it  is  commonly  said  to  be  : 
but  there  can  hardly  be  any  such  passion  ;  it  must  be  a 
desire  of  doing  mischief  for  some  very  slight  and  foolish 
cause.  I  don't  like  the  cut  of  a  man's  coat,  or  the  make 
of  his  face ;  or,  he  talks  too  quick,  or  too  slow,  or  some 
other  such  absurd  and  childish  reason, — which  makes 
me  his  enemy,  and  inclines  me  to  do  him  harm. 

Sulkiness,  is  anger  half  subdued  by  fear.  Jealousy,  is 
another  modification  of  anger  ; — the  causes  of  which,  I 
believe,  there  is  no  occasion  I  should  explain.  Cruelty, 
is  rather  a  habit  than  a  passion:  it  will  easily  appear, 
however,  that  it  is  the  genuine  and  necessary  offspring 
of  anger,  often  indulged  and  gratified.  It  is  most  apt 
to  arise  in  proud,  selfish,  and  timorous  persons,  who  con- 
ceive highly  of  their  own  merits,  and  of  the  consequent 
inj  ustice  of  all  offenses  committed  against  them ;  and 
who  have  an  exquisite  feeling  and  apprehension  in 
respect  of  private  gratification  and  uneasiness.  Mon- 
tesquieu has  made  this  remark  :  he  says,  that  all  persons 
accustomed  to  the  implicit  gratification  of  the  will,  are 
very  apt  to  be  cruel. 

Fear,  is  the  apprehension  of  future  evil.  Habit  dimin- 
ishes fear,  when  it  raises  up  contrary  associations  ;  and 
increases  it,  when  it  confirms  the  first  associations.  A 
soldier,  who  has  often  escaped,  begins  to  disunite  the 
two  ideas  of  dying  and  fighting ;  he  connects  also  with 
fighting,  a  sense  of  duty,  and  a  love  of  glory.  Habit,  I 
should  think,  would  increase  the  sensation  of  fear,  in  a 
person  who  had  undergone  two  or  three  painful  opera- 
tions, and  was  about  to  submit  to  another.  A  man 
works  in  a  gunpowder-mill  every  day  of  his  life,  with  the 
utmost  sang  froid,  which  you  would  not  be  very  much 
pleased  to  enter  for  half  an  hour :  you  have  associated 
with  the  manufactory,  nothing  but  the  accidents  you 
have  heard  it  is  exposed  to ;  he  has  associated  with  it, 
the  numberless  days  he  has  passed  there  in  perfect  securi- 
ty. For  the  same  reason,  a  sailor-boy  stands  unconcerned 
upon  the  mast ;  a  mason  upon  a  ladder ;  and  a  miner 
descends  by  his  single  rope.  Their  associations  are 
altered  by  experience  ;  therefore,  in  estimating  the  degree 
in  which  human  creatures  are  under  the  influence  of  this 


296  LECTURE    XXI. 

passion,  we  must  always  remember  their  previous  habits. 
A  woman  conceives,  early  in  life,  such  dreadful  notions 
of  war,  and  all  the  instruments  of  war,  that  no  degree  of 
maternal  tenderness,  probably,  would  induce  her  to  take 
a  sword  and  pistol,  and  go  and  fight ;  but  in  the  time  of 
a  public  plague,  she  would  despise  her  own  life,  nurse 
her  sick  husband,  or  her  children,  and  expose  herself  to 
death,  as  boldly  as  any  grenadier.  In  the  late  attack 
upon  Egypt,  our  soldiers  behaved  with  the  most  distin- 
guished courage  ;  but  a  physician  did  what,  I  suppose, 
no  soldier  in  the  whole  army  would  have  dared  to  have 
done  ; — he  slept  for  three  nights  in  the  sheets  of  a 
patient  who  had  died  of  the  plague !  If  the  question  had 
been  to  encounter  noisy,  riotous  death,  he  probably 
could  not  have  done  it ;  but  where  pus  and  miasma 
were  concerned,  he  appears  to  have  been  a  perfect  hero. 
Fear,  is  the  most  contagious  of  all  the  passions  ;  and  the 
reason  is  obvious  enough  why  it  becomes  so :  it  is  much 
more  likely  that  the  cause  of*  your  fear  should  concern 
me,  more  than  the  cause  of  any  other  of  your  passions. 
If  I  see  you  very  angry,  it  is  not  probable,  unless  we 
happen  to  be  intimately  connected,  that  the  cause  of 
your  anger  would  prove  to  be  a  cause  of  mine  ;  but  if  I 
see  you  dreadfully  frightened,  it  immediately  occurs  to 
me,  that  I  am  implicated  in  the  same  cause  of  fear  : — you 
have  discovered  that  the  play-house  in  which  we  are 
both  sitting,  is  on  fire  ;  you  have  seen  an  enraged  bull, 
running  in  the  streets :  I  am  not  easy  for  an  instant,  till 
I  have  discovered  the  cause  of  your  terror,  and  satisfied 
myself,  that  it  does  not  concern  us  both. 

The  passion  of  fear,  in  its  ordinary  state,  is  a  vibration 
of  the  mind,  between  the  expectation  of  good,  and  the 
expectation  of  evil;  in  which  contest,  however,  the  ex- 
pectation of  evil  preponderates.  The  moment  all  hope 
is  banished,  and  nothing  remains  but  despair  (the  ex- 
pectation of  certain  evil),  the  passion  assumes  a  new 
form ; — very  often  that  of  the  most  furious  resentment. 
A  rat  is  a  very  timid  animal,  with  respect  to  men ;  but 
get  a  rat  into  a  corner,  where  all  possibility  of  escape  is 
precluded,  and  a  rat  will  fly  at  you  like  a  tiger.  The  in- 
stances are  innumerable  of  the  heroic  exploits  performed 


ON    THE    EVIL    AFFECTIONS.  297 

by  small  bodies  of  troops,  whose  fears,  despair  has  con- 
verted into  resentment.  In  cases  where  there  is  no  room 
for  resentment, — as  in  shipwreck, — despair  produces  va- 
rious species  of  insanity,  stupor,  and  delirium,  while  the 
sailors  are  only  afraid ;  that  is,  while  there  is  a  mixture 
of  two  passions,  they  work,  and  do  all  they  can  for  their 
safety.  The  moment  there  is  no  more  hope, — so  impos- 
sible is  it  for  the  ordinary  mass  of  human  beings  to  look 
steadily  at  great  and  certain  evil,  that  many  jump  over- 
board and  drown  themselves  ;  some  are  quite  stupefied ; 
others  completely  raving  mad. 

A  great  propensity  to  fear  is,  I  should  imagine,  capa- 
ble of  some  degree  of  cure.  The  living  with  brave  men, 
would  certainly  go  a  great  way  to  diminish  this  passion 
of  fear  ; — as  all  our  qualities  of  mind,  whether  good  or 
bad,  are  highly  contagious.  To  put  ourselves  in  situa- 
tions where  we  must  act  before  many  witnesses,  operates 
as  a  check  upon  fear,  by  raising  up  contrary  passions, 
of  the  dread  of  shame.  It  very  often  happens,  in  cases 
of  danger,  that  some  one  present,  is  more  under  the  in- 
fluence of  this  passion  than  ourselves,  and  that  this  ex- 
ample, instead  of  increasing  our  fear,  produces  the  con- 
trary effect, — of  diminishing  it  :  we  become  ashamed  of 
our  companion's  weakness  ;  then  of  our  own.  Vanity 
induces  us,  also,  to  make  a  display  of  our  superiority  ; 
and,  by  this  effort,  the  fear  is  diminished.  Fear  is  re- 
peatedly overcome  by  affection,  and  compassion.  A 
mother  would  run  away  from  a  dog,  if  her  child  was  not 
with  her ;  but  she  faces  him  very  boldly  when  her  fears 
are  excited  for  another.  A  sudden  cry  of  distress  will 
induce  a  man,  very  often,  to  do  what  no  regard  for  his 
own  safety  could  possibly  impel  him  to  perform. 

Suspicion,  clearly  belongs  to  the  family  of  fear :  it  is 
that  passion  applied  to  the  motives  and  intentions  of  hu- 
man creatures.  For  instance,  we  should  not  call  a  man 
suspicious  who  was  extremely  careful  of  his  health  ;  and 
who  was  always  believing,  when  he  walked  out,  that  it 
was  going  to  thunder,  or  rain  ;  but  we  should  call  that 
person  suspicious,  who  believed  that  every  person  with 
whom  he  lived,  was  laying  plots  to  defraud  and  deceive 
him.     Fear,  is  certainly  a  strong  predisposing  cause  to 

N* 


298  LECTURE    XXI. 

suspicion.  It  is  highly  probable  that  a  suspicious  man 
is  naturally  a  timid  man ;  though  the  converse  is  not 
equally  probable, — that  a  timid  person  should  be  sus- 
picious. Women  are  timid,  but  not  suspicious  ; — much 
the  contrary. 

The  particular  kind  of  grief  we  feel  for  the  loss  of 
reputation,  is  called  shame ;  the  aversion  occasioned  by 
which  feeling, — the  desire  to  escape  it, — is,  perhaps,  the 
most  powerful  of  all  the  passions.  The  most  curious 
offspring  of  shame,  is  shyness  ; — a  word  always  used,  I 
fancy,  in  a  bad  sense,  to  signify  misplaced  shame ;  for  a 
person  who  felt  only  diffident,  exactly  in  proportion  as 
he  ought,  would  never  be  called  shy.  But  a  shy  person 
feels  more  shame,  than  it  is  graceful,  or  proper,  he  should 
feel ;  generally,  either  from  ignorance  or  pride.  A 
young  man,  in  making  his  first  entrance  into  society,  is 
so  ignorant  as  to  imagine  he  is  the  object  of  universal 
attention ;  and  that  every  thing  he  does  is  subject  to  the 
most  rigid  criticism.  Of  course,  under  such  a  supposi- 
tion, he  is  shy  and  embarrassed :  he  regains  his  ease,  as 
he  becomes  aware  of  his  insignificance.  An  excessive 
jealousy  of  reputation,  is  the  very  frequent  parent  of 
shyness,  and  makes  us  all  afraid  of  saying  and  doing, 
what  wre  might  say  and  do,  with  the  utmost  propriety 
and  grace.  We  are  afraid  of  hazarding  any  thing  ;  and 
the  game  stands  still,  because  no  man  will  venture  any 
stake  :  whereas,  the  object  of  living  together,  is  not  se- 
curity only,  but  enjoyment.  Both  objects  are  promoted 
by  a  moderate  dread  of  shame ;  both  destroyed  by  that 
passion,  when  it  amounts  to  shyness ; — for  a  shy  person 
not  only  feels  pain,  and  gives  pain  ;  but,  what  is  worse, 
he  incurs  blame,  for  a  want  of  that  rational  and  manly 
confidence,  which  is  so  useful  to  those  who  possess  it, 
and  so  pleasant  to  those  who  witness  it.  I  am  severe 
against  shyness,  because  it  looks  like  a  virtue  without 
being  sl  virtue ;  and  because  it  gives  us  false  notions  of 
what  the  real  virtue  is.  I  admit  that  it  is  sometimes  an 
affair  of  body,  rather  than  of  mind  ;  that  where  a  person 
wishes  to  say  what  he  knows  will  be  received  with  favor, 
he  can  not  command  himself  enough  to  do  it.  But  this 
is   merely  the   effect    of  habit,    where   the  cause  that 


ON    THE    EVIL    AFFECTIONS.  299 

created  the  habit  has  for  a  moment  ceased.  When  the 
feelings  respecting  shame  are  disciplined  by  good  sense, 
and  commerce  with  the  world,  to  a  fair  medium,  the 
body  will  soon  learn  to  obey  the  decisions  of  the  under- 
standing. 

Nor  let  any  young  man  imagine  (however  it  may  flat- 
ter the  vanity  of  those  who  perceive  it),  that  there  can 
be  any  thing  worthy  of  a  man,  in  faltering,  and  tripping, 
and  stammering,  and  looking  like  a  fool,  and  acting  like 
a  clown.  A  silly  college  pedant  believes  that  this  high- 
est of  all  the  virtues,  consists  in  the  shame  of  the  body  ; 
in  losing  the  ease  and  possession  of  a  gentleman  ;  in  turn- 
ing red  ;  and  tumbling  down  ;  in  saying  this  thing,  when 
you  mean  that ;  in  overturning  every  body  within  your 
reach,  out  of  pure  bashfulness ;  and  in  a  general  stupid- 
ity and  ungainliness,  and  confusion  of  limb,  and  thought, 
and  motion.  But  that  dread  of  shame,  which  virtue  and 
wisdom  teach,  is,  to  act  so,  from  the  cradle  to  the  tomb, 
that  no  man  can  cast  upon  you  the  shadow  of  reproach ; 
not  to  swerve  on  this  side  for  wealth,  or  on  that  side  for 
favor ;  but  to  go  on  speaking  truly,  and  acting  justly : 
no  man's  oppressor,  and  no  man's  sycophant  and  slave. 
This  is  the  shame  of  the  soul ;  and  these  are  the  blushes 
of  the  inward  man  ;  which  are  worth  all  the  distortions 
of  the  body,  and  all  the  crimson  of  the  face. 

I  come  now  to  the  pain  of  inactivity,  or  ennui.  All 
young  animals  have  a  great  pleasure  in  motion ;  and 
when  they  have  moved  for  a  long  time,  they  have  a  great 
pleasure  in  remaining  at  rest.  In  the  one  feeling,  na- 
ture secures  the  activity  of  animals,  and  distinguishes 
them  from  the  vegetable  and  the  mineral  kingdom  ;  by 
the  other,  prevents  that  activity  from  destroying  them. 
When  the  mind  entertains  no  desire  nor  aversion  strong 
enough  to  induce  us  to  act,  either  with  the  body,  or  by 
thinking,  we  are  ennuied,  and  in  a  state  bordering  upon 
the  greatest  misery.  The  solitary  imprisonment  recom- 
mended by  Howard,  has,  I  fancy,  been  given  up,  from 
its  having  driven  several  persons  to  insanity.  The  ab- 
sence of  desire  and  aversion,  or  which  includes  them 
both,  motive,  destroyed  their  reason.  A  man  much 
given  to  speculation  might  have  supported  himself,  per- 


300  LECTURE    XXI. 

haps,  in  such  a  situation  ;  or  a  mind  fertile  in  inventing 
occupations  ;  but  it  is  such  a  strain  upon  human  nature, 
that  none  but  its  choicest  and  strongest  materials  can 
support  it.  Baron  Trenck,  in  his  dreadful  imprisonment, 
took  to  engraving  pewter  pots,  which,  I  believe,  was  his 
sole  occupation  before  he  began  to  contrive  his  escape. 
Count  Saxe,  in  his  solitary  cell,  formed  a  strict  friend- 
ship with  a  large  spider,  provided  it  with  flies  and  gnats, 
and  every  dainty  that  was  on  the  wing ;  and  had  so  far 
familiarized  the  creature  to  him,  that  it  would  crawl 
upon  his  hand  with  the  most  perfect  security,  and  come 
out  of  its  hiding-place  upon  a  noise  which  the  count  was 
accustomed  to  make.  It  is  added,  that  the  jailer,  when 
he  perceived  the  amusement  which  the  count  derived 
from  the  spider,  killed  it ! 

Count  Rumford  availed  himself,  in  a  very  ingenious 
manner,  of  the  pain  of  ennui.  He  compelled  all  the 
new-comers  in  his  school  to  sit  quite  idle,  and  do  nothing. 
The  misery  they  felt  from  remaining  entirely  without 
occupation,  operated  as  the  strongest  stimulus  in  them, 
to  desire  work ;  and  they  received  his  permission  to  la- 
bor in  the  manufactory,  as  a  liberation  from  the  most 
painful  feelings  they  had  ever  experienced.  "I  have 
already  mentioned,"  says  the  Count,  "  that  those  chil- 
dren who  were  too  young  to  work,  were  placed  upon 
seats,  built  round  the  hall,  where  other  children  worked. 
This  was  done  in  order  to  inspire  them  with  a  desire  to 
do  that,  which  other  children,  apparently  more  favored, 
more  caressed,  and  more  praised  than  themselves,  were 
permitted  to  do ;  and  of  which,  they  were  obliged  to  be 
idle  spectators :  and  this  had  the  desired  effect.  As 
nothing  is  so  tedious  to  a  child  as  being  obliged  to  sit 
still  in  the  same  place  for  a  considerable  time;  and  as 
the  work  which  the  other  more  favored  children  were 
engaged  in  was  light  and  easy,  and  appeared  rather 
amusing  than  otherwise  (being  the  spinning  of  hemp 
and  flax,  with  small  light  wheels,  turned  with  the  foot), 
these  children  who  were  obliged  to  be  spectators  of  this 
busy  and  entertaining  scene,  became  so  very  uneasy  in 
their  situations,  and  so  jealous  of  those  who  were  per- 
mitted to  be  more  active,  that  they  frequently  solicited, 


ON    THE    EVIL    AFFECTIONS.  301 

with  the  greatest  importunity,  to  be  allowed  to  work ; 
and  often  cried  most  heartily,  if  this  favor  was  not  in- 
stantly granted  them.  How  sweet  these  tears  were  to 
me,  can  easily  be  imagined ;  and  I  always  found  that  the 
joy  they  showed  upon  being  permitted  to  descend  from 
their  benches,  and  mix  with  the  working  children  below, 
was  equal  to  the  solicitude  with  which  they  had  de- 
manded that  favor." 

It  is  remarkable,  when  the  body  requires  rest,  the 
mind  is  very  easily  amused :  after  severe  toil  in  hunting, 
or  war,  savages  will  remain  whole  days  in  a  state  of  in- 
activity. Any  thing  which  occupies  the  mind  agreeably, 
or  disagreeably,  is  an  antidote  to  ennui :  severe  pain  is 
not  compatible  with  it.  There  is  a  story  of  a  very  re- 
spectable tradesman,  who  had  retired  from  business,  and 
who  confessed  to  a  friend  of  his,  that  the  happiest  month 
in  the  year  to  him,  was  the  month  in  which  his  fit  of  the 
gout  came  on.  He  was  so  totally  unable  to  fill  up  his 
time,  that  even  the  occupation  afforded  by  pain  was  a 
relief  to  him. 

There  is  no  word  in  our  language  to  signify  the  re- 
membrance of  evil  that  is  past,  as  there  is  to  signify  the 
anticipation  of  the  evil  which  is  to  come ;  no  word  con- 
trasted to  this  meaning  of  fear :  probably  because  the 
recollection  of  pain,  is  not  very  painful,  as  being  con- 
trasted with  present  ease ;  and  because  such  recollec- 
tion produces  no  events,  and  leads  to  nothing ;  whereas, 
fear — the  anticipation  of  evil — is  a  very  remarkable 
passion,  and  immediately  leads  to  a  state  of  activity. 
Remorse  is  not  the  recollection  of  any  past  grief,  but  the 
sensation  of  present  grief,  for  past  faults  now  irreme- 
diable. 

It  appears,  then,  from  this  enumeration  of  the  ungrate- 
ful passions,  which  lead  men  to  act  from  feelings  of  aver- 
sion, that  they  are  all  referable  to  the  memory  of  evil, 
the  actual  sensation,  the  future  anticipation  of  it,  or  the 
resentment  which  any  one  of  these  notions  is  apt  to  ex- 
cite. The  remembrance  of  past  evils,  produces  melan- 
choly :  the  sensation  of  present  evils,  if  they  be  referred 
to  the  body,  pain  ;  if  to  the  mind,  grief.  Envy,  hatred, 
and  malice,  are  all  modifications  of  resentment,  differing 


302  LECTURE    XXI. 

in  the  causes  which  have  excited  that  resentment,  as 
well  as  in  the  degree  in  which  it  is  entertained.  Shame 
is  that  particular  species  of  grief,  which  proceeds  from 
losing  the  esteem  of  our  fellow-creatures ;  fear,  the  an- 
ticipation of  future  evils.  This  is  the  catalogue  of  hu- 
man miseries  and  pains ;  and  it  is  plain  why  they  have 
been  added  to  our  nature.  By  the  miseries  of  the  body, 
man  is  controlled  within  his  proper  sphere,  and  learns 
what  manner  of  life  it  was  intended  he  should  lead :  fear 
and  suspicion  are  given  to  guard  him  from  harm :  re- 
sentment, to  punish  those  who  inflict  it ;  and  by  punish- 
ment, to  deter  them.  By  the  pain  of  inactivity,  we  are 
driven  to  exertion  ; — by  the  dread  of  shame,  to  labor  for 
esteem.  But  all  these  pregnant  and  productive  feelings 
are  poured  into  the  heart  of  man,  not  with  any  thing  that 
has  the  air  of  human  moderation, — not  with  a  measure 
that  looks  like  precision  and  adjustment, — but  wildly,  lav- 
ishly, and  in  excess.  Providence  only  impels  :  it  makes 
us  start  up  from  the  earth,  and  do  something ;  but 
whether  that  something  shall  be  good  or  evil,  is  the  ar- 
duous decision  which  that  Providence  has  left  to  us. 
You  can  not  sit  quietly  till  the  torch  is  held  up  to  your 
cottage,  and  the  dagger  to  your  throat :  if  you  could, 
this  scene  of  things  would  not  long  be  what  it  now  is. 
The  solemn  feeling  which  rises  up  in  you  at  such  times, 
is  as  much  the  work  of  God,  as  the  splendor  of  the  light- 
ning is  His  work  ;  but  that  feeling  may  degenerate  into 
the  fury  of  a  savage,  or  be  disciplined  into  the  rational 
opposition  of  a  wise  and  a  good  man.  You  must  be  af- 
fected by  the  distinctions  of  your  fellow-creatures, — you 
can  not  help  it ;  but  you  may  envy  those  distinctions, 
or  you  may  emulate  them.  The  dread  of  shame  may 
enervate  you  for  every  manly  exertion,  or  be  the  vigi- 
lant guardian  of  purity  and  innocence.  In  a  strong 
mind,  fear  grows  up  into  cautious  sagacity ;  grief,  into 
amiable  tenderness.  Without  the  noble  toil  of  moral 
education,  the  one  is  abject  cowardice,  the  other  eternal 
gloom ;  therefore,  there  is  the  good,  and  there  is  the 
evil !  Every  man's  destiny  is  in  his  own  hands.  Na- 
ture has  given  us  those  beginnings,  which  are  the  ele- 
ments of  the  foulest  vices,  and  the  seeds  of  every  sweet 


ON    THE    EVIL    AFFECTIONS.  303 

and  immortal  virtue :  but  though  Nature  has  given  you 
the  liberty  to  choose,  she  has  terrified  you  by  her  punish- 
ments, and  lured  you  by  her  rewards,  to  choose  aright ; 
for  she  has  not  only  taken  care  that  envy,  and  coward- 
ice, and  melancholy,  and  revenge,  shall  carry  with  them 
their  own  curse, — but  she  has  rewarded  emulation, 
courage,  patience,  cheerfulness,  and  dignity,  with  that 
feeling  of  calm  pleasure,  which  makes  it  the  highest  act 
of  human  wisdom  to  labor  for  their  attainment. 


LECTURE    XXII 

ON  THE  BENEVOLENT   AFFECTIONS. 

OF    THE    AGREEABLE    AND    BENEVOLENT     AFFECTIONS,    AND     THEIR     ORIGIN. 

OF    THE    NATURAL    SIGNS    OF    THE    PASSIONS. OF    THE     AFFINITY    BETWEEN 

THE     PASSIONS.  OF     THE     EFFECT     OF     CONTRARY      PASSIONS      ON     EACH 

OTHER. 

In  my  last  Lecture,  I  treated  on  such  of  the  active 
powers  as  had  the  evil  of  others  for  their  object ;  or 
were  characterized  by  the  pain  which  they  inflicted  on 
him,  in  whose  mind  they  were  observed.  I  come  now 
to  an  opposite  set  of  agents, — those  which  have  the  good 
of  others  for  their  object,  or  are  characterized  by  the 
pleasure  which  they  impart  to  that  person,  in  whom  they 
are  observable.  I  am  aware  this  division  of  the  prin- 
ciples of  our  nature,  which  lead  us  to  action,  is  not  per- 
fectly accurate ;  but  it  is  accurate  enough  for  that 
very  general  view  which  I  propose  to  take  of  them,  and 
which  I  believe  is  all  that  could  be  tolerated  in  a  Lecture 
of  this  nature. 

The  origin  of  these  benevolent  affections,  I  should 
explain  exactly  after  the  same  manner  as  their  oppo- 
site,— the  malevolent  feelings  :  the  one  proceed  from 
pain,  guided  by  association  ;  the  other,  from  pleasure, 
guided  by  association.  To  trace  them  up  to  this  orgin, 
would  be  merely  to  repeat  my  last  Lecture  over  again, 
with  the  alteration  of  a  single  word — pleasure  for  pain  ; 
and  therefore  I  shall  pass  it  over,  presuming  that  I  have 
sufficiently  explained  myself  on  that  subject. 

The  pleasing  and  benevolent  affections  of  our  nature, 
may  be  divided  into  the  memory  of  past  good ;  the  en- 
joyment of  present  good  ;  the  anticipation  of  future 
good ;  and  benevolence,  or  a  desire  to  do  good  to  others. 


ON    THE    BENEVOLENT    AFFECTIONS.  305 

The  memory  of  past  good,  and  the  memory  of  past  evil, 
are  both  without  a  specific  name  in  our  language ; 
though  it  should  seem,  that  they  require  one,  as  much 
as  hope  or  fear, — to  which,  in  point  of  time,  they  are 
contrasted.  We  all  know  that  present  happiness  is  very 
materially  affected  by  happiness  in  prospect  :  but,  per- 
haps, it  is  not  enough  urged  as  a  motive  for  benev- 
olence. 

Mankind  are  always  happier  for  having  been  happy ; 
so  that  if  you  make  them  happy  now,  you  make  them 
happy  twenty  years  hence  by  the  memory  of  it.  A 
childhood  passed  with  a  due  mixture  of  rational  indul- 
gence, under  fond  and  wise  parents,  diffuses  over  the 
whole  of  life,  a  feeling  of  calm  pleasure  ;  and,  in  extreme 
old  age,  is  the  very  last  remembrance  which  time  can 
erase  from  the  mind  of  man.  No  enjoyment,  however 
inconsiderable,  is  confined  to  the  present  moment.  A 
man  is  the  happier  for  life,  from  having  made  once  an 
agreeable  tour,  or  lived  for  any  length  of  time  with 
pleasant  people,  or  enjoyed  any  considerable  interval  of 
innocent  pleasure  :  and  it  is  most  probably  the  recollec- 
tion of  their  past  pleasures,  which  contributes  to  render 
old  men  so  inattentive  to  the  scenes  before  them  ;  and 
carries  them  back  to  a  world  that  is  past,  and  to  scenes 
never  to  be  renewed  again. 

The  recollection  of  pleasures  that  are  past,  is  tinged 
with  a  certain  degree  of  melancholy. — as  every  survey 
we  take  of  distant  periods  of  time  always  is.  This  gives 
it  its  peculiar  characteristic,  and  distinguishes  it  from 
the  animated  sensations  of  present  enjoyment :  but  still, 
such  recollections  is  always  one  of  the  favorite  occupa- 
tions of  the  human  mind ;  and,  to  many  dispositions,  the 
most  fruitful  source  of  happiness. 

In  the  passion  of  fear  there  is  always  a  mixed  ex- 
pectation of  good  and  evil ;  but  the  evil  preponderates. 
When  all  expectation  of  good  ceases,  the  feeling  which 
takes  place  is  that  of  despair.  In  hope,  the  expectation 
of  good  preponderates.  But  there  is  no  name  for  that 
feeling,  when  all  expectation  of  evil  ceases,  and  the  good 
appears  certain  ; — this  is  the  opposite  of  despair.  Upon 
this  tendency  to  look  forward  to  future  happiness,  or 


306  LECTURE    XXII. 

back  upon  happiness  past,  is  founded  a  very  obvious 
distinction  in  human  character  : — contemplative  men,  of 
a  poetical  cast,  who  are  always  looking  with  a  kind  of 
fond  enthusiasm  upon  the  past,  and  contrasting  it  with 
the  prospect  which  lies  open  before  them ;  and  bustling 
active  men  of  the  world,  whose  face  is  always  turned 
the  way  they  are  going, — in  whose  mind  the  memory 
of  the  past  has  very  little  share,  but  who  look  keenly 
forward  in  the  game  of  life,  with  all  the  eagerness  of  the 
most  sanguine  hope.  For  my  part,  I  must  confess  my- 
self rather  an  admirer  of  the  active  school,  and  no  great 
friend  to  that  pleasant  but  disqualifying  melancholy, 
which  makes  a  man  believe  he  has  extracted  all  the 
pleasure  and  enjoyment  from  human  life,  before  he  has 
passed  half  through  it, — that  no  grass  is  green,  except  the 
grass  where  he  played  when  he  was  a  boy, — and  that 
all  the  pleasures  of  which  a  man  of  genuine  feeling  and 
taste  partakes,  ought,  like  the  wine  he  drinks,  to  be  fif- 
teen or  twenty  years  old.  So  far  as  the  contemplation 
of  the  past  does  not  go  to  put  us  out  of  conceit  with  the 
future,  it  is  wise  :  when  it  does,  it  is  the  idleness  of 
genius  and  feeling ;  but  it  is  idleness,  and  is  a  corruption 
which  comes  from  those  imperfect  moralists,  the  poets, 
who  are  ever  disposed  to  chant  mankind  out  of  the 
vigorous  cheerfulness  of  hope,  and  to  infuse,  in  its  stead, 
a  feeling  of  past  happiness ;  which,  however  calm  and 
beautiful  it  may  appear,  is  injurious  when  it  softens  and 
unstrings  the  mind,  and  renders  it  useless  for  the 
struggles  of  life. 

The  different  degrees  of  present  enjoyment  are  signi- 
fied by  a  vast  variety  of  expressions  ;  from  complacency 
and  satisfaction,  to  the  most  exalted  rapture.  The 
general  term  for  the  desire  to  do  good  to  others,  is — 
benevolence.  The  most  common  causes  of  benevolence 
are  love,  gratitude,  and  compassion  :  these  are  very 
ancient  subjects,  and  it  is  not  very  easy  to  say  any  thing 
new  upon  them ;  but  there  is  another  source  of  benevo- 
lence, which  is  not  so  commonly  adverted  to,  nor  so 
frequently  discussed, — I  mean  the  benevolence  excited 
by  power,  and  by  wealth  ;  not  proceeding  from  any  idea 
of  profiting  by  the  power  or  wealth  of  others,  but  a  dis- 


ON    THE    BENEVOLENT    AFFECTIONS.  307 

interested,  impartial  admiration  of  power  and  wealth, 
and  a  high  degree  of  benevolence  excited  toward  the 
rich,  the  great,  and  the  fortunate.  The  operations  of 
envy  are  very  limited  ;  we  merely  envy  those  immedi- 
ately above  us, — whose  advantages  might  possibly  have 
been  ours :  but  the  splendor  placed  entirely  out  of  our 
reach,  we  admire  with  the  fondest  enthusiasm. 

"  When,"  says  Adam  Smith,  "  we  consider  the  con- 
dition of  the  great,  in  those  delusive  colors  in  which  the 
imagination  is  apt  to  paint  it,  it  seems  to  be  almost  the 
abstract  idea  of  a  perfect  and  happy  state.  It  is  the  very 
state  which,  in  all  our  waking  dreams,  and  idle  reveries, 
we  had  sketched  out  to  ourselves,  as  the  final  object  of 
all  our  desires.  We  feel,  therefore,  a  peculiar  sympathy 
with  the  satisfaction  of  those  that  are  in  it :  we  favor  all 
their  inclinations,  and  forward  all  their  wishes.  What 
pity,  we  think,  that  any  thing  should  spoil  and  corrupt 
so  agreeable  a  situation !  We  could  even  wish  them 
immortal :  and  it  seems  hard  to  us,  that  death  should,  at 
last,  put  an  end  to  such  perfect  enjoyment.  It  is  cruel, 
we  think,  in  Nature  to  compel  them,  from  their  exalted 
station,  to  that  humble,  but  hospitable  home  which  she 
has  provided  for  all  her  children.  Great  King,  live  for- 
ever! is  the  compliment,  which,  after  the  manner  of 
Eastern  adulation,  we  should  readily  make  them,  if  ex- 
perience did  not  teach  us  its  absurdity.  Every  calamity 
that  befalls  them,  every  injury  that  is  done  them,  excites 
in  the  breast  of  the  spectator,  ten  times  more  compassion 
and  resentment  than  he  would  have  felt,  had  the  same 
things  happened  to  other  men.  It  is  the  misfortunes  of 
kings  only,  which  afford  the  proper  subject  for  tragedy. 
They  resemble,  in  this  respect,  the  misfortunes  of  lovers. 
Those  two  situations  are  the  chief  that  interest  us  upon 
the  theater ;  because,  in  spite  of  all  that  reason  and  ex- 
perience can  tell  us  to  the  contrary,  the  prejudices  of 
the  imagination  attach  to  these  two  states,  a  happiness 
superior  to  any  other.  To  disturb,  or  put  an  end  to, 
such  perfect  enjoyment,  seems  to  be  the  most  atrocious 
of  all  injuries." 

Every  man's  experience,  I  should  think,  must  have 
furnished  him  with  sufficient  examples  of  this  kind  of 


308  LECTURE    XXII. 

feeling ; — of  the  examples  of  men  who  have  nothing  to 
wish,  or  to  want ;  who  are  utterly  incapable  of  forming 
a  base  or  ungenerous  sentiment ;  but  who,  with  the  most 
honest  and  disinterested  views,  are  quite  enslaved  by  the 
admiration  of  greatness.  Their  benefits  can  extend  to  a 
few ;  but  their  fortunes  interest  almost  every  body.  We 
are  eager  to  assist  them  in  completing  a  system  of  hap- 
piness, that  approaches  so  near  to  perfection ;  and  we 
desire  to  serve  them,  for  their  own  sake,  without  any 
recompense,  but  the  honor  or  the  vanity  of  obliging  them. 

Upon  this  disposition,  however,  to  go  along  with  the 
passions  of  the  rich  and  powerful,  is  founded  the  dis- 
tinction of  ranks,  and  the  order  of  society.  Watched 
over,  and  kept  within  due  bounds,  it  is  a  sentiment  which 
leads  to  the  most  valuable  and  important  consequences. 
But  I  hope  I  shall  be  pardoned  for  observing,  it  is  a  ter- 
rible corrupter  of  moral  sentiments,  when  it  destroys 
that  feeling  of  modest  independence,  which  is  quite  as 
necessary  to  the  real  welfare  of  society,  as  a  wise  sub- 
ordination, and  difference  of  rank. 

As  every  thing  which  excites  pain,  is  apt  to  excite  re- 
sentment, so,  every  thing  which  excites  pleasure,  is  apt 
to  excite  benevolence.  A  good  countenance,  or  a  good 
figure,  always  conciliates  a  considerable  degree  of  favor ; 
— certainly,  very  unjustly ;  because,  no  man  makes  his 
own  figure,  or  his  own  face ;  and  the  distresses  of  others, 
or  their  merits,  are  the  only  legitimate  objects  of  benevo- 
lence. The  messenger  of  good  news,  is  always  an  object 
of  benevolence.  Every  one  knows,  that  an  officer  who 
brings  home  the  news  of  a  victory,  receives  a  donation 
in  money,  and  is  commonly  knighted,  or  promoted. 
Strictly  speaking,  it  would  be  just  as  equitable  to  mulct 
him  of  half  a  year's  pay,  for  bringing  home  the  news  of 
a  defeat,  as  it  would  be  to  present  him  with  £500,  for 
bringing  home  the  news  of  a  victory  :  but,  if  they  be  not 
too  great,  all  men  sympathize  with  the  excesses  of  the 
generous  and  benevolent  passions ;  while  they  restrain 
the  malevolent  principles  within  the  most  rigid  bounds 
of  justice.  That  the  messenger  of  disastrous  news  should 
be  punished,  would  appear  to  the  impartial  spectator,  the 
most  horrible  injustice  ;  but  no  one  envies  his  reward  to 


ON    THE    BENEVOLENT    AFFECTIONS.  309 

him  who  brings  good  intelligence,  though  no  one  pre- 
tends to  say  that  he  has  deserved  it.  A  thousand  in- 
stances may  be  observed,  where  the  tendency  of  pleasure 
to  excite  benevolence,  gets  the  better  of  justice ;  but, 
because  it  is  an  excess  of  the  right  side,  it  is  less  noticed, 
and  less  blamed.  A  witty,  agreeable  man,  with  a  good 
address,  may  be  guilty,  I  am  afraid,  of  innumerable  faults, 
which  a  dull  and  awkward  offender  would  never  be  able 
to  get  over.  The  question  always  is,  "what  he  is  to 
us;"  not,  what  he  is,  in  his  general  relations  to  society. 
If  he  succeed  in  giving  pleasure,  he  is  almost  certain  of 
exciting  benevolence.  For  this  reason  it  is,  that  the 
little  excellences  so  very  often  beat  the  great ;  and  that 
a  person  who  has  the  dining  and  supping  virtues,  so  often 
plays  a  more  conspicuous  part  in  society,  than  the  great- 
est and  most  august  of  human  beings.  "  Those  amiable 
passions,"  says  Adam  Smith,  "even  when  they  are 
acknowledged  to  be  excessive,  are  never  regarded  with 
aversion.  There  is  something  agreeable,  even  in  the 
weakness  of  friendship  and  humanity.  The  too  tender 
mother  and  the  too  indulgent  father,  the  too  generous 
and  affectionate  friend,  may  sometimes,  perhaps,  on  ac- 
count of  the  softness  of  their  natures,  be  looked  upon 
with  a  species  of  pity,  in  which,  however,  there  is  a 
mixture  of  love  ;  but  can  never  be  regarded  with  hatred 
and  aversion,  nor  even  with  contempt,  unless  by  the 
most  brutal  and  worthless  of  mankind.  It  is  always 
with  concern,  with  sympathy,  and  kindness,  that  we 
blame  them  for  the  extravagance  of  their  attachment. 
There  is  a  helplessness  in  the  character  of  extreme 
humanity,  which  more  than  any  thing  interests  our  pity. 
There  is  nothing  in  itself,  which  renders  it  either  un- 
graceful or  disagreeable  :  we  only  regret  that  it  is  unfit 
for  the  world,  because  the  world  is  unworthy  of  it ;  and 
because  it  must  expose  the  person  who  is  endowed  with 
it,  as  a  prey  to  the  perfidy  and  ingratitude  of  insinuating 
falsehood,  and  to  a  thousand  pains  and  uneasinesses 
which,  of  all  men,  he  the  least  deserves  to  feel ;  and 
which  generally,  too,  he  is,  of  all  men,  the  least  capable 
of  supporting.  It  is  quite  otherwise  with  hatred  and  re- 
sentment.    Too  violent  a  propensity  to  these  detestable 


310  LECTURE    XXII. 

passions,  renders  a  person  the  object  of  universal  dread 
and  abhorrence,  who,  like  a  wild  beast,  ought,  we  think, 
to  be  hunted  out  of  all  civil  society." 

There  is  a  species  of  benevolence,  which  ought  to 
have  an  appropriate  name  ;  because  names  are  of  im- 
mense importance  in  teaching  virtue,  and  in  securing  it: 
A  love  of  excellence, — a  benevolence  excited  by  all 
superiority  in  good,  as  envy  is  the  hatred  excited  by 
that  superiority  ; — an  honest  and  zealous  admiration  of 
talent,  and  of  virtue,  in  whatever  corner  and  nook  of 
the  world  they  are  to  be  found, — an  admiration  which 
no  disparity  of  situation,  no  spirit  of  party,  none  of  the 
hateful  and  disuniting  feelings  can  extinguish.  In  all 
ages  of  the  world,  the  ablest  men  have  been  the  first  to 
express  their  admiration  of  excellence ;  and,  while  they 
themselves  were  extending  the  triumphs  of  the  human 
understanding,  they  have  worshiped  its  powers  in  other 
minds,  with  veneration  bordering  upon  idolatry.  The 
best  cure  for  envy,  is,  to  inspire  the  Young,  at  a  very 
early  period  of  their  lives,  with  the  deepest  respect  for 
virtue  and  talent ;  to  kindle  this  feeling  up  into  a 
passion  ;  to  make  their  acknowledgment  of  merit  a 
gratification  of  pride ;  the  homage  they  pay  to  it,  an 
irresistible  impulse, — like  that  which  is  felt  at  the 
image  of  sublime  beauty,  or  the  spectacle  of  matchless 
strength. 

Respect  and  esteem  are  low  degrees  of  benevolence, 
excited  by  the  severer  part  of  the  social  virtues ; — as, 
justice  and  integrity  ;  or,  by  the  prudent  virtues : — as, 
temperance  and  caution.  Affection  is  always  more  per- 
manent when  it  happens  to  be  mingled  with  respect  and 
esteem  ;  because  the  absence  of  respect  and  esteem  im- 
plies disapprobation,  which  in  time  might  destroy  benev- 
olence. A  certain  mixture  of  fear,  is  not  unfavorable 
to  affection  ;  it  must  be  very  small;  but,. whether  it  be 
that  we  get  tired  with  one  attitude,  and  like  to  be  affect- 
ed in  a  different  manner,  a  sprinkling  of  fear  or  resent- 
ment, upon  the  sweeter  passions,  seems  to  be  very  well 
relished,  and  perhaps  serves  to  keep  them  from  corrupt- 
ing so  soon  as  they  otherwise  would  do.  These  are  the 
principal  observations  which  I  have  to  offer  on  the  benev- 


ON    THE    BENEVOLENT    AFFECTIONS.  311 

olent  affections,  in  particular.  We  see  by  them,  and 
by  what  I  have  said  on  the  malevolent  passions,  that 
Nature  allures  us  to  a  particular  system  of  actions,  by 
the  pleasure  she  has  annexed  to  them ;  and  deters 
us  from  the  opposite  system,  by  the  pains  of  which 
it  is  productive.  She  might  have  punished  alone ;  but 
she  punishes  and  rewards  also.  As  it  is  true  that 
there  is  a  grateful  flavor  in  ripe  fruit,  and  an  enticing 
smell  to  draw  us  toward  it,  it  is  as  true,  and  as  notori- 
ous, that  there  is  a  real  pleasure  in  benevolence,  a 
charm  in  compassion,  in  candor,  and  every  species  of 
goodness. 

We  are  guided  in  our  physical  aversion  by  nauseous 
and  irritating  tastes ;  and  are  taught  as  plainly  to  love, 
and  to  forgive,  by  those  bitter  pangs  which  hatred  and 
resentment  never  fail  to  leave  behind  them,  when  they 
are  indulged  without  the  restraints  of  justice.  Nothing 
which  it  is  important  we  should  do,  or  should  avoid,  is 
left  to  the  determination  of  reason  alone,  but  the  object 
is  always  secured  by  aversion  or  by  desire.  We  do  not 
eat  or  drink  when  reason  points  out  to  us  to  do  so,  but 
when  the  feelings  of  nature  admonish  us :  we  are  urged 
by  an  impetuous  feeling  to  be  compassionate,  to  resist 
atrocious  injustice,  and  to  do  every  thing  which  it  is 
necessary  for  the  well-being  of  society  that  we  should 
do. 

I  shall  now  proceed  to  make  some  general  observa- 
tions on  the  passions  and  affections,  whether  benevolent 
or  malevolent. 

It  has  been  supposed  by  some  writers,  that  nature  has 
appropriated  some  particular  signs  of  the  countenance, 
o-r  gesticulations  of  the  body,  to  denote  some  passions, 
and  other  signs  for  other  passions  :  and  that  we  are  born 
with  a  knowledge  of  these  signs ;  that  is,  that,  previous 
to  all  experience,  the  child  knows  the  first  smile  to  be 
the  sign  of  pleasure  ;  and  the  first  frown  the  sign  of  pain. 
This  appears  to  me  to  be  quite  a  preposterous  notion. 
Where  the  acquisition  of  any  knowledge  can  be  explain- 
ed by  the  usual  method  of  experience,  it  is  very  useless, 
as  well  as  pernicious,  to  invent  new  first  principles  to 
account  for  it.     The  child  sees  the  nurse  smile  when 


312  LECTURE    XXII. 

she  is  good  humored,  and  therefore  connects  together 
the  ideas  of  smiling  and  kindness  :  previous  to  that,  there 
is  no  evidence  that  the  child  connects  any  idea  with  any 
particular  change  of  the  countenance.  And  if  we  can 
suppose  a  child  to  have  been  so  educated,  that  while  he 
was  corrected,  the  person  who  punished  him  took  care 
to  smile  ;  and  while  he  was  praised,  it  was  always  ac- 
companied with  frowns ;  to  such  a  child  a  frown  would 
be  the  indication  of  benevolence, — and  a  smile,  of  re- 
sentment. But  has  nature  made  the  signs  of  the 
passions  steady  and  uniform,  so  that  though  they  are  not 
known  at  the  birth,  they  are  easily  learned  and  remem- 
bered afterward  ?  The  signs  of  some  passions,  certain- 
ly not.  Blushing,  which  we  call  the  natural  sign  of 
shame,  certainly  can  not  exist  in  a  negro  :  besides,  it  is  a 
sign  of  anger,  as  well  as  shame ;  and  of  innocent  bash- 
fulness,  as  well  as  guilty  shame ;  and  of  ill  health,  and 
fainting  away,  and  a  thousand  other  affections  of  mind 
and  body  :  so  that  if  you  choose  to  say  nature  has  given 
us  this,  as  an  indication  to  others,  of  what  passes  in  our 
minds,  it  is  an  extremely  dangerous  and  deceitful  guide, 
— and  as  likely  to  put  us  out  of  the  way  as  in  it.  There 
is  some  fallacy  also  in  this,  that  whenever  we  see  what 
we  call  the  signs  of  the  passions,  they  are  accompanied 
with  such  a  plain  context,  that  their  interpretation  is 
wonderfully  facilitated.  The  face  of  an  angry  fish- 
woman  would  indicate,  I  suppose,  the  signs  of  the 
passions  ;  but  these  signs  certainly  borrow  something  of 
their  perspicuity,  from  the  oaths  which  accompany  them  ; 
and  something  from  the  blows  she  might  bestow  on  the 
object  of  her  indignation.  However,  it  can  not  be  denied 
that  nature  has  given  some  very  general  indications  of 
the  passions ;  and  the  doctrine  is  only  ridiculous,  when 
pushed  to  such  extremes  as  some  writers  have  carried 
it.  If  the  whole  body  be  taken  in,  as  well  as  the  coun- 
tenance, the  violent  agitation  of  the  limbs  in  great  anger, 
and  the  perfect  state  of  rest  under  the  feeling  of  compla- 
cency and  satisfaction,  are,  no  doubt,  phenomena  which 
always  follow  those  affections  of  mind  :  nor  do  I  suppose 
there  is  any  nation  on  the  face  of  the  earth,  which  ex- 
presses content  as  we  express  anger, — or,   vice   versa, 


ON    THE    BENEVOLENT    AFFECTIONS.  313 

anger  as  we  do  content :  at  least,  no  nation,  the  inhabi- 
tants of  which  express  sudden  indignation  by  assuming 
a  more  tranquil  position  than  before  ;  or  perfect  content 
by  every  extravagance  of  gesture  and  motion.  In  these 
respects,  probably,  all  nations  are  alike :  but  the  finer 
signs  may  differ ;  for  in  grief,  one  muscle,  or  set  of 
muscles,  contracts ;  in  displeasure,  another.  But  it  is 
not  simply  the  contraction  of  this  muscle,  which  is  our 
sign  of  the  passion ;  but  generally,  the  effect  which  this 
contraction  produces  upon  all  the  other  features  of  the 
face  :  for  instance,  the  first  mark  of  dejection  is,  that  it 
makes  the  eyebrows  rise  toward  the  middle  of  the  fore- 
head, more  than  toward  the  cheek  ;  but  the  effect  of 
this,  can  not  possibly  be  the  same  with  a  fine  Italian  face, 
and  with  the  physiognomy  of  a  Chinese.  The  general 
effect  upon  the  countenance,  produced  by  the  contrac- 
tion of  the  same  muscle,  must  be  so  different,  that  the 
smile  of  complacency  of  one  race  of  men,  may  exactly 
correspond  to  the  smile  of  contempt  in  another.  There- 
fore, if  nature  has  made  such  a  language  of  looks,  it  is 
only  vernacular  in  each  particular  country  ; — it  is  not 
the  language  of  the  whole  world. 

The  doctrine  of  natural  signs,  taken  thus  grossly,  is 
true ;  carried  to  any  greater  degree  of  minuteness,  will 
be  found  to  involve  its  advocates  in  a  thousand  absurdi- 
ties. 

There  is  a  great  affinity  between  all  the  good  affec- 
tions ;  and  the  same  affinity  between  all  the  malevolent 
and  painful  ones.  It  is  a  common  thing  to  become  very 
fond  of  those  whom  we  pity ;  approbation,  long  ex- 
ercised toward  any  particular  person,  generates,  at  last, 
affection.  So  does  esteem ;  and  still  more,  admiration. 
Every  body  is  in  love  with  great  heroes. 

The  pleasures  of  the  body  are  favorable  to  all  the 
benevolent  virtues, — and  its  pains  unfavorable.  No 
one  is  so  inclined  to  good  nature,  courtesy,  and  gene- 
rosity, when  cold,  wet,  and  dirty,  as  after  pleasant  feed- 
ing, and  during  genial  warmth.  A  courtier,  who  had  a 
favor  to  ask  of  his  master,  would  never  choose  a  moment 
of  ear-ache,  or  a  fit  of  the  gout,  as  the  happiest  opportu- 
ne v  of  preferring  his  request.     Count  Rumford  has  been 

0 


314  LECTUKE    XXII. 

accused  of  being  too  fanciful,  because  he  has  advanced 
that  there  is  a  great  connection  between  cleanliness  and 
virtue.  It  is  a  position,  certainly,  very  capable  of  being 
turned  into  ridicule  ;  but  if  it  be  seriously  examined,  and 
if  the  affinity  between  our  feelings  be  properly  attended 
to,  there  can  surely  be  no  absurdity  in  conceiving  that 
all  the  filth  and  pains  of  body,  and  little  privations,  to 
which  the  poor  are  subjected,  must  produce  an  irrita- 
tion of  mind,  infinitely  more  favorable  to  the  malevolent 
than  to  the  good  passions. 

The  inference  from  these  facts  is,  that  one  very  suc- 
cessful method  of  making  people  good  is  to  make  them 
happy ;  and  that  the  most  effectual  preventive  of  punish- 
ment, and  the  most  powerful  auxiliary  to  moral  advice, 
is  to  diffuse  over  their  lives  those  feelings  of  comfort 
and  ease,  which  have  an  almost  mechanical  influence  in 
cherishing  the  social  and  benevolent  virtues. 

That  virtue  gives  happiness,  we  all  know  ;  but  if  it  be 
true,  that  happiness  contributes  to  virtue,  the  principle 
furnishes  us  with  some  sort  of  excuse  for  the  errors  and 
excesses  of  able  young  men,  at  the  bottom  of  life,  fret- 
ting with  impatience  under  their  obscurity,  and  hatching 
a  thousand  chimeras  of  being  neglected  and  overlooked 
by  the  world.  The  natural  cure  for  these  errors  is, 
the  sunshine  of  prosperity  :  as  they  get  happier,  they  get 
better ;  and  learn,  from  the  respect  which  they  receive 
from  others,  to  respect  themselves.  "  Whenever,"  says 
Mr.  Lancaster  (in  his  book  just  published),  "  I  met  with 
a  boy  particularly  mischievous,  I  made  him  a  monitor : 
I  never  knew  this  fail/'  The  cause  for  the  promotion, 
and  the  kind  of  encouragement  it  must  occasion,  I  con- 
fess appear  rather  singular ;  but  of  the  effect  I  have  no 
sort  of  doubt. 

In  the  same  manner,  the  bad  passions  herd  together ; 
and  where  one  exists  in  any  strength,  the  others  are 
much  more  likely  to  find  an  easy  reception.  Pain,  as  I 
have  said  before,  produces  anger ;  fear  gives  birth  to 
cruelty ;  displacency  is  the  parent  of  revenge :  so  that 
by  gaining  one  good  habit,  we  have  the  chance  of  gaining 
many  others  similar  to  it ;  and  by  contracting  one  bad 


ON    THE    BENEVOLENT    AFFECTIONS.  315 

one,  of  adding  very  rapidly  to  the  stock  of  our  imper- 
fections. 

Sometimes  it  happens  that  passions,  originally  differ- 
ent from  each  other,  give  force  to  each  other.  When 
we  would  affect  any  one  very  much  by  a  matter  of  fact, 
of  which  we  intend  to  inform  him,  it  is  a  common  arti- 
fice to  excite  his  curiosity, — delay  as  long  as  possible  to 
satisfy  it, — and,  by  that  means,  raise  his  anxiety  and 
impatience  to  the  utmost,  before  we  give  him  a  full  in- 
sight into  the  business.  We  know  this  curiosity  will 
precipitate  him  into  the  passion  which  we  propose  to 
raise,  and  assist  its  influence  upon  the  mind.  Hope  is, 
in  itself,  an  agreeable  passion,  and  allied  to  friendship 
and  benevolence ;  yet  it  is  able,  sometimes,  to  increase 
anger,  when  that  is  the  predominant  passion.  Nothing 
communicates  more  force  to  our  emotions,  than  an  op- 
position of  contrary  passions, — love  and  revenge ;  hatred 
and  admiration  ;  gratitude  and  envy. 

"  Horror  and  doubt  distract 
His  troubled  thoughts,  and  from  the  bottom  stir 
The  hell  within  him ;  for  within  him  hell 
He  brings,  and  round  about  him,  nor  from  hell 
One  step,  no  more  than  from  himself,  can  fly 
By  change  of  place :  Now  conscience  wakes  despair 
That  slumber'd ;  wakes  the  bitter  memory 
Of  what  he  was,  what  is,  and  what  must  be 
Worse ;  of  worse  deeds  worse  sufferings  must  ensue, 
Sometimes  toward  Eden,  which  now  in  his  view 
Lay  pleasant,  his  griev'd  look  he  fixed  sad ; 
Sometimes  toward  heaven,  and  the  full-blazing  sun, 
Which  now  sat  high  in  his  meridian  tower : 
Then,  much  revolving,  thus  in  sighs  began." 

In  all  this  altercation  of  passions,  those  of  an  opposite 
nature,  instead  of  destroying  each  other,  appear  to  com- 
municate to  each  other  additional  force ;  they  all  add  to 
the  quantity  of  the  excitement,  all  violate  the  state  of 
rest,  and  raise  the  mind  into  a  state  of  unnatural  agita- 
tion ;  and  of  such  importance  in  our  mental  constitution 
does  it  seem,  to  overcome  the  state  of  tranquil  apathy, 
and  such  is  the  proneness  of  all  strong  feelings,  whether 
good  or  bad,  that  the  progress  from  any  one  passion  to 
another,  seems  to  be  quite  as  easy  and  natural,  as  the 
progress  from  tranquillity  to   passion   at  all.      It   cost 


316  LECTURE    XXII. 

Timotheus,  I  dare  say,  a  great  deal  of  fine  playing,  to 
throw  the  soul  of  Alexander  into  a  tumult  of  feeling ; 
but  that  once  accomplished,  the  bard  harped  him  into 
any  passion  he  pleased.  However  this  be  true  of  Tim- 
otheus and  Alexander,  it  is  certainly  true  of  music  in 
general.  If  we  are  stupid  or  indolent,  we  resist  its 
powers  for  some  time  ;  but  when  the  twangings,  and  the 
beatings,  and  the  breathings  once  reach  the  heart,  and 
set  it  moving  with  all  its  streams  of  life,  the  mind  bounds 
from  grief  to  joy,  from  joy  to  grief,  without  effort  or  pang, 
but  seems  rather  to  derive  its  keenest  pleasure  from  the 
quick  vicissitude  of  passion  to  which  it  is  exposed.  It 
is  the  same  with  acting.  It  is  difficult  to  rouse  the  mind 
from  an  ordinary  state,  to  a  dramatic  state  ;  but  that 
once  done,  we  glide  with  ease  from  any  passion,  to  one 
the  most  opposite. 

All  objects  of  sense, — every  thing  that  we  hear  and 
see, — excite  the  passions  in  an  infinitely  greater  degree 
than  the  same  thing  conceived  by  the  description  of 
others.  This  was  the  defense  always  made  by  the  Ro- 
man Catholics,  for  the  worship  of  images, — that  it  was 
difficult  to  keep  up  any  fervor  of  devotion  by  a  mere 
speculative  notion.  It  required  the  forcible  impression 
of  an  object  of  sense,  to  invigorate  the  passion,  and  keep 
it  alive.  This  is  the  use  of  colors,  in  the  day  of  battle : 
when  the  carnage  becomes  very  dreadful,  the  words  duty 
and  country,  and  every  other  speculative  notion  that 
can  be  gathered  together,  are  often  of  very  cold  opera- 
tion ; — but  the  actual  sight  of  their  colors  in  danger,  will 
do  more  in  an  instant,  than  all  the  stimulating  ideas 
which  the  whole  resources  of  language  can  present  to 
men.  An  appeal  is  made  to  the  passions  through  the 
senses,  and  such  appeals  are  always  the  most  irresistible, 
particularly  with  the  lowest  class,  who  have  fewer  ideas 
of  reflection,  in  comparison  with  their  ideas  of  sense. 

A  thing,  I  am  very  sorry  to  say,  is  sometimes  more 
pleasant  because  it  is  forbidden.  This  is  because  the 
love  of  power  is  excited  by  the  prohibition ; — and  any 
one  excitement  always  increases  any  other  excitement. 
The  efforts  made  to  surmount  the  obstacle,  rouse  the 
spirits  and  enliven  the  passions.     I  forget  what  comedy 


ON    THE    BENEVOLENT     AFFECTIONS.  317 

it  is  in,  where  a  lady,  who  is  about  to  be  married  with 
the  consent  of  her  parents,  refuses  to  give  her  hand  to 
the  husband  in  the  usual  manner,  but  insists  upon  the 
apparatus  being  provided,  and  that  she  should  be  stolen 
away,  according  to  the  strictest  etiquette  of  clandestine 
marriages. 

Uncertainty,  has  the  same  effect  as  opposition.  The 
agitation  of  the  thought ;  the  quick  turn  which  it  makes, 
from  one  view  to  another  ;  the  variety  of  passions  which 
succeed  each  other,  according  to  the  different  views  :  all 
these  produce  an  emotion  in  the  mind  ;  and  this  emotion 
transfuses  itself  into  the  predominant  passion.  Security, 
on  the  contrary,  diminishes  the  passions ;  the  mind, 
when  left  to  itself,  immediately  languishes ;  and,  in  order 
to  preserve  its  ardor,  must  be  every  moment  supported 
by  a  new  flow  of  passion. 

Nothing  more  powerfully  excites  any  affection,  than 
to  conceal  some  part  of  its  object,  by  throwing  it  into 
shade ;  which,  at  the  same  time  that  it  shows  us  enough 
to  prepossess  us  in  favor  of  the  object,  leaves  still  some 
work  for  the  imagination.  Besides,  that  obscurity  is  al- 
ways attended  with  a  kind  of  uncertainty,  the  effort 
which  the  fancy  makes  to  complete  the  idea  rouses  the 
spirits,  and  gives  an  additional  force  to  the  passion. 

"  The  other  shape, 
If  shape  it  might  be  call'd  that  shape  had  none 
Distinguishable  in  member,  joint,  or  limb, — 
Or  substance  might  be  call'd  that  shadow  seem'd, 
For  each  seem'd  either, — black  it  stood  as  night, 
Fierce  as  ten  Furies,  terrible  as  Hell, 
And  shook  a  dreadful  dart :  what  seem'd  his  head, 
The  likeness  of  a  kingly  crown  had  on. 

The  undaunted  fiend  what  this  might  be  admired  ; 
Admired,  not  fear'd :  God  and  his  Son  except, 
Created  thing  naught  valued  he,  nor  shunn'd." 

As  despair  and  security,  though  contrary,  produce  tne 
same  effects  ;  so,  absence  is  observed  to  have  contrary 
effects,  and,  in  different  circumstances,  either  increases 
or  diminishes  our  affections.  Rochefoucault  has  re- 
marked, that  "  absence  destroys  weak  passions,  but  in- 
creases strong ;  as  the  wind  extinguishes  a  candle,  and 


318  LECTURE    XXII. 

blows  up  a  fire."  Long  absence  naturally  weakens  our 
idea,  and  diminishes  the  passion ;  but  where  the  affec- 
tion is  so  strong  and  lively  as  to  support  itself,  the  un- 
easiness arising  from  absence  increases  the  passion,  and 
gives  it  fresh  force  and  influence.  The  imagination 
and  affections  have  together  a  close  union ;  the  vivacity 
of  the  former,  gives  force  to  the  latter  :  hence,  the  pros- 
pect of  any  pleasure  with  which  we  are  acquainted,  af- 
fects us  more  than  any  other  pleasure  which  we  may 
own  to  be  superior,  but  of  the  nature  of  which  we  are 
wholly  ignorant:  of  the  one  we  can  form  a  particular 
and  determinate  idea,  the  other  we  conceive  under  the 
general  notion  of  pleasure. 

When  we  apply  ourselves  to  the  performance  of  any 
action,  or  the  conception  of  any  object,  to  which  we  are 
not  accustomed,  there  is  a  certain  unpliableness  in  the 
faculties,  and  a  difficulty  in  the  spirits,  to  move  in  the 
new  direction ;  hence,  every  thing  that  is  new  is  most 
affecting,  and  gives  us  either  more  pleasure,  or  pain,  than 
what,  strictly  speaking,  should  naturally  follow  from  it. 
When  it  often  returns  upon  us,  the  novelty  wears  off; 
the  passion  subsides,  the  hurry  of  the  spirits  is  over,  and 
we  survey  the  object  with  tranquillity  and  ease. 

Any  satisfaction  we  have  recently  enjoyed,  and  of 
which  the  memory  is  fresh  and  perfect,  operates  on  the 
will  with  more  violence  than  another,  of  which  the  traces 
are  decayed  and  obliterated.  Contiguity  in  time  and 
place,  has  an  amazing  effect  upon  the  passions.  An 
enormous  globe  of  fire,  which  fell  at  Pekin,  would  not 
excite  half  the  interest  which  the  most  trifling  phenom- 
enon could  give  birth  to  nearer  home.  I  am  persuaded 
many  men  might  be  picked  out  of  the  streets,  who,  for 
1000  guineas  paid  down,  would  consent  to  submit  to  a 
very  cruel  death,  in  fifteen  years  from  the  time  of  receiv- 
ing the  money.  This,  for  the  main,  is  a  wise  provision 
of  nature ;  for  the  progress  of  life,  generally  speaking, 
and  the  order  of  the  world,  depend  upon  an  attention  to 
present  objects :  but  this,  like  every  other  moral  pro- 
vision, is  given  without  any  limit  or  adjustment ;  and  it 
becomes  the  great  object  of  wisdom  and  of  virtue  to  re- 
strain it  within  proper  limits.     By  all  that  we  can  look 


ON    THE    BENEVOLENT    AFFECTIONS.  319 

upon  an  object  of  sense,  and  (admitting  its  capacity  of 
affording  present  pleasure)  steadily  reckon  up  its  influ- 
ence upon  future  happiness ;  by  all  that,  are  we  ad- 
vanced in  power  of  thought,  and  rectitude  of  action. 
The  great  labor  is,  to  subdue  the  tyranny  of  present  im- 
pression ;  to  hold  down  desire  and  aversion,  with  a  firm 
grasp,  till  we  have  time  to  see  where  they  would  drive 
us.  The  men  who  can  do  this,  are  the  men  who  do  all 
the  praiseworthy  actions  that  are  done  in  the  world  ; — 
who  write  lasting  books,  make  treaties,  lead  armies,  and 
govern  kingdoms  ;  or,  if  their  life  be  private,  live  pleas- 
antly and  safely.  Those  men,  on  the  contrary,  who  can 
acquire  no  knowledge,  enjoy  no  praise,  and  feel  no  peace- 
ful happiness,  seem  only  to  have  lived  to  destroy  the 
moral  order  of  the  world,  and  dishonor  the  works  of  God. 


LECTURE    XXIII 

ON  THE   PASSIONS. 

EFFECTS     OF    PASSIONS    OX   THE    BODY,    AND    OF   SURPRISE    ON    THE    PASSIONS. 

OF     WHAT     IS    SAID    ABOUT     RULING    PASSIONS. OF    TEMPER  J      HUMOR  ; 

NATURE. THE    DIFFERENT    DEGREES    OF    THE  PASSIONS,  AND  PARTICULARLY 

OF  THE  PASSIONS  IN  THEIR  LOW  DEGREES. HOW  FAR  A  STATE  OF  PAS- 
SION IS  AGREEABLE  TO  THE  MIND. THE  EFFECTS  OF  PASSIONS  AND  TAL- 
ENTS   ON    EACH    OTHER. 

The  powerful  part  which  the  passions  were  intended 
to  act  in  our  constitution,  is  clearly  evinced  by  those 
rapid  and  dreadful  effects  which  they  frequently  commit 
upon  the  body.  Instances  are  very  numerous  of  persons 
who  have  been  driven  mad  by  joy, — who  have  dropped 
down  dead  from  anger  or  grief.  Great  numbers  of  people 
die  every  year,  pining  away  from  deranged  circum- 
stances, or  from  disgrace,  or  disappointed  affection,  in  a 
state  which  we  call  broken-hearted.  The  passions  kill 
like  acute  diseases,  and  like  chronic  ones  too.  Every 
physician  who  knows  any  thing  of  the  science,  has  seen 
innumerable  cases  of  all  the  disorders  of  the  body,  origi- 
nating from  disturbed  emotion,  and  totally  inaccessible 
to  all  the  remedies  by  which  mere  animal  infirmities 
are  removed.  Dr.  Gregory,  of  Edinburgh,  in  his  "  Lec- 
tures on  the  Practice  of  Medicine,"  mentions  so  singular 
an  instance  of  the  effects  of  joy,  that,  but  for  such  highly 
respectable  authority,  I  should  hardly  think  it  credible. 
He  was  sent  for  in  the  course  of  his  medical  practice,  to 
a  family  in  the  country,  consisting  of  a  mother  and  two 
daughters.  They  had  recently  come  to  a  very  large, 
and  a  very  sudden  accession  of  fortune.  Upon  his  arri- 
val at  the  house,  he  was  met  by  the  eldest  daughter, 
who,  with  a  great  appearance  of  agitation,  cautioned 


ON    THE    PASSIONS.  321 

him  against  her  mother  and  sister ;  and  informed  him 
they  were  both  mad.  He  very  soon  perceived  that  this 
lady  was  so  herself;  and  upon  visiting  the  other  two, 
perceived  they  were  not  a  jot  better.  The  truth  turned 
out  to  be,  that  their  astonishment  and  joy  was  so  great, 
upon  being  raised  from  poverty  to  extreme  opulence, — 
they  had  so  many  plans  of  equipage  ;  and  so  many  dis- 
putes whether  they  should  go  to  Bath  before  they  went 
to  London,  or  London  before  they  visited  Bath, — that 
the  small  share  of  reason  they  ever  could  have  possessed, 
fell  a  sacrifice  to  the  agitation.  Independent  of  the 
mere  magnitude  of  the  passion,  a  distinct  effect  is  pro- 
duced by  the  suddenness  of  it;  or  rather,  perhaps,  it 
would  be  clearer  to  say,  that  all  the  passions  are  consid- 
erably increased  by  surprise,  and  diminished  by  expec- 
tation. To  be  thoroughly  informed  of  the  nature  and 
extent  of  any  danger,  to  which  we  are  about  to  be  ex- 
posed,— to  have  leisure  to  summon  up  resolution,  and 
invent  resources, — diminishes  very  materially  the  feel- 
ing of  that  danger  :  a  sudden  exposure  to  it,  might  com- 
pletely overset  the  mind.  In  the  same  manner  with 
grief.  A  long  struggle  with  death,  and  a  finely-gradu- 
ated decay,  familiarize  us  to  the  loss  of  our  friends :  the 
countenance  which  grows  paler  day  by  day,  and  the 
form  which  every  hour  emaciates,  inure  us  so  to  the  pang 
of  separation,  that  we  meet  with  calm  resignation  a  mis- 
fortune, which,  suddenly  communicated,  would  bear 
down  all  authority  of  reason,  and  leave,  perhaps,  the 
mind  itself  a  mere  ruin  beneath  its  pressure.  In  this  re- 
spect, there  is  a  great  analogy  between  body  and  mind. 
It  is  not  difficult,  by  gradations,  to  accustom  the  body 
to  any  thing ;  while  it  receives  the  most  violent  injuries 
from  changes  that  are  sudden.  This  dread  of  sudden 
vicissitude,  admits  of  no  explanation  ;  it  is  one  of  the 
means  by  which  the  powers  of  man  are  limited,  and  he 
is  controlled  within  the  sphere  in  which  he  at  present 
moves.  It  is  curious  to  observe  the  very  little  time 
necessary  to  the  mind  for  its  changes  ;  and  how  short  a 
preparation  obviates  the  worst  and  most  dangerous  ef- 
fects of  the  passions.  To  come  into  a  room  suddenly, 
and  say  such  a  person  is  dead,  might  very  likely  kill  the 


322  LECTURE    XXIII. 

person  to  whom  it  was  addressed :  but  "  he  is  not  quite 
so  well  as  could  be  wished  ;  there  is  some  little  danger ; 
he  was  getting  worse,"  and  so  on ; — by  the  presentation 
of  a  mournful  idea,  which  the  mind  can  bear,  and  by  the 
gradual  increase  of  it  up  to  the  point  which  you  wish  to 
establish,  though  you  can  never  prevent  the  feelings 
of  nature,  you  blunt  them,  and  deter  their  excesses  from 
acting  so  tremendously  upon  the  infirmities  of  the  body. 
Any  one  passion  may  act  upon  the  mind,  when  it  is 
in  one  of  these  three  states  : — first,  when  it  is  under  the 
influence  of  a  similar  passion  ;  next,  when  it  is  under  the 
influence  of  an  opposite  passion  ;  next,  when  it  is  in  a 
state  of  rest,  and  under  the  influence  of  no  passion  at 
all.  For  instance,  I  may  receive  such  news  as  would 
overwhelm  me  with  grief,  and,  at  the  moment  previous 
to  my  receiving  it,  I  may  be  in  a  state  of  joy,  or  sorrow, 
or  in  a  state  of  indifference ;  the  question  is,  in  which 
of  these  three  states  will  the  new  passion  produce  its 
greatest  effects  ?  Is  the  grief  greater  for  being  added  to 
grief,  or  being  contrasted  to  previous  joy  ?  or  from  its 
falling  on  the  mind  when  it  was  in  a  passionless  state  ? 
If  the  two  states  of  grief  and  joy  can  not  coexist,  so  that 
they  neutralize  each  other,  then  the  grief  is  always  more 
intense  from  the  contrast.  If  a  father  were  to  learn  that 
his  son  had  distinguished  himself  very  much  in  battle, 
and  were  then  to  be  told,  in  the  midst  of  his  joy,  that 
his  son  had  died  of  his  wounds,  the  joy  and  the  grief 
stand  so  opposed  to  each  other,  that  the  one  would  go 
rather  to  inflame,  than  to  diminish  the  other.  "  Dead  at 
the  very  moment  that  I  expected  to  see  him  return  with 
the  highest  reputation !  in  the  midst  of  all  the  congratu- 
lations I  was  making  to  myself  for  his  safety  !" — these 
are  the  ideas  with  which  a  parent  would  naturally  exas- 
perate his  misfortune.  But  if  the  joy  and  the  grief  were 
in  no  wise  related  together,  then  the  joyful  passion  would 
neutralize  the  sad  one.  To  hear  that  my  fortune  was 
materially  diminished,  would  affect  me  less,  if  I  had  just 
recovered  my  health,  or  had  just  gained  a  distinguished 
reputation.  I  should  set  off  the  good  against  the  evil, 
and  bring  my  mind  to  a  kind  of  equilibrium  of  feeling 
and  passion. 


ON    THE    PASSIONS.  323 

Some  men  possess  a  much  stronger  tendency  to  par- 
ticular passions  than  to  others, — and  passions,  like  tal- 
ents, are  transmitted  by  birth  from  parent  to  child :  some 
say,  acquired  by  early  imitation ;  but  the  analogy  of 
animals  rather  leads  us  to  suppose  that  birth  influences 
the  qualities  of  the  mind,  as  well  as  the  limbs  and  gen- 
eral figure.  All  the  foals  of  an  ill-tempered  horse  are 
very  often  as  vicious  as  the  sire,  whom  they  have  never 
seen.  Cock-fighters  are  extremely  attentive  to  the 
breed  of  their  fowls :  a  valiant  cock  has  his  eggs  sent 
about  as  presents,  that  they  may  be  hatched  into  heroes  ; 
and  these  heroes  have  certainly  had  no  communication 
with  their  parents,  and  no  opportun  ity  of  forming  their 
manners  upon  such  models  of  valor. 

It  is  very  often  (not  always)  true,  that  there  is  a 
ruling  passion  which  obscures  or  absorbs  all  the  rest. 
In  some  minds,  two  or  three  of  the  great  passions  appear 
to  hold  a  divided  empire.  In  others,  there  is  such  a 
want  of  prominence  in  the  active  principles,  that  it  is 
extremely  difficult  to  say  which  governs, — which  obeys. 
It  is,  however,  an  extremely  important  circumstance  in 
the  investigation  of  character,  to  ascertain  what  are  the 
paramount  motives,  by  which  any  human  being  is  habit- 
ually impelled ;  and  the  most  complicated  phenomena, 
after  such  a  key  to  their  interpretation  is  once  obtained, 
become  clear  and  comprehensible.  We  speak  of  a  man's 
disposition  according  to  the  predominance  of  good  or 
bad  passions  in  his  nature. 

There  are  three  expressions  in  our  language,  which, 
because  they  refer  to  the  kind  and  degree  of  the  pas- 
sions, require  some  explanation  in  this  place ; — Temper, 
Humor  ,  and  Nature.  When  used  with  adjectives  of 
blame  and  praise,  temper  and  humor  mean  nearly  the 
same  thing.  A  good-humored  person,  or  a  good-tem- 
pered person,  is  one  in  whom  the  intentions  and  actions 
of  others  do  not  easily  excite  bad  passions, — who  does 
not  mistake  the  motives  by  which  the  rest  of  the  world 
are  actuated  toward  him.  A  good-natured  person  is  a 
man  of  active  benevolence ;  who  seeks  to  give  pleasure 
to  others  in  little  things.  Good-temper  measures  how  a 
man    is   acted   upon   by  others :  good -nature    measures 


324  LECTURE    XXIII. 

how  he  acts  for  others.  The  presumption  is,  that  the  two 
excellences  would  be  found  uniformly  conjoined  to- 
gether ;  that  a  man  who  was  passively  benevolent, 
would  be  actively  so  too :  but  the  reverse  is  often  the 
case  in  practice.  There  many  men  of  inviolable  temper, 
who  never  exert  themselves  to  do  a  good-natured  thing, 
from  one  end  of  the  year  to  the  other ;  and  many  in  the 
highest  degree  irritable,  who  are  perpetually  employed 
in  little  acts  of  good-nature.  It  must  be  observed,  that 
all  the  three  words  refer  only  to  the  little  vices  and 
virtues.  Repeated  fits  of  peevishness,  constitute  ill- 
temper.  Violent  hatred,  and  deadly  revenge,  require 
and  receive  a  much  graver  name.  To  do  little  favors 
to  others,  and  contrive  small  gratifications  and  amuse- 
ments for  them,  is  the  province  of  a  good-natured  man. 
A  more  exalted  and  difficult  benevolence  immediately 
assumes  a  more  dignified  appellation,  and  ceases  to  be 
called  good-nature.  To  bring  a  large  twelfth-cake  to  a 
child,  is  good-nature ;  to  give  him  education,  support, 
and  protection,  though  he  have  no  natural  claim  upon 
you,  is  compassion,  and  the  summit  of  good  feeling. 

Of  all  the  affections,  there  are  various  degrees.  There 
is  that  degree  in  which  it  is  scarcely  perceptible ;  there 
is  that  calm  state  of  the  affection,  where  it  leaves  the 
reason  unbiased ;  and  there  is  that  last,  and  most 
violent  degree  of  it,  which  assumes  the  name  of  passion. 
This  is  quite  as  true  of  the  malevolent,  as  of  the  benev- 
olent affections.  Resentment  may  be  calm,  or  it  may 
be  furious.  There  is  a  silent  apprehension,  and  a  fear 
exhibiting  itself  in  the  most  acute  paroxysms.  Now,  it 
seems  evident  that  reason,  in  a  strict  sense  (meaning  by 
that  term  the  judgment  of  truth  and  falsehood),  can 
never  be  any  motive  to  the  will,  and  can  have  no  influ- 
ence, but  so  far  as  it  touches  some  passion  or  affection, 
What  is  commonly,  and  in  a  popular  sense,  called  reason, 
and  is  so  much  recommended  in  moral  discourses,  is 
nothing  but  a  general  and  calm  passion,  which  takes  a 
comprehensive  and  distant  view  of  its  object,  and  actu- 
ates the  will,  without  exciting  any  sensible  emotion.  A 
man,  we  say,  is  diligent  from  reason ;  that  is,  from  a 
calm  desire  of  riches  and  fortune.     A  man  adheres  to 


ON    THE    PASSIONS.  3k^5 

justice  from  reason  ;  that  is,  from  a  calm  regard  to 
public  good,  and  to  a  character  with  himself  and  others. 
For  observe  all  that  reason  can  do ;  reason  only  enables 
us  to  judge  of  propositions.  This  man  is  miserable ; 
this  man  is  going  on  in  a  way  which  will  terminate  in 
his  complete  ruin ;  by  a  prudent  set  of  measures,  I  will 
save  and  convert  him.  By  your  reason  you  prognosti- 
cate his  future  good ;  but  the  motive  which  induces  you 
to  plan  his  extrication,  has  nothing  to  do  with  reason. 
H  God  have  not  planted  the  benevolent  passions  in  your 
heart,  you  may  go  on  reasoning  and  anticipating  to  all 
eternity,  without  the  slightest  disposition  to  act.  All 
motives  come  from  the  passions  ;  all  means  and  instru- 
ments, from  reason. 

The  same  objects  which  recommend  themselves  to 
reason,  in  this  sense  of  the  word,  are  also  the  objects  of 
passion  when  they  are  nearer  to  us ;  and  acquire  some 
other  advantage,  either  of  external  situation,  or  con- 
gruity  to  our  internal  temper.  Evil  near  at  hand  pro- 
duces aversion,  and  is  the  object  of  passion ;  at  a  great 
distance,  we  say  it  is  avoided  from  reason.  The 
common  error  of  metaphysicians  has  been  in  ascribing 
the  direction  of  the  will  entirely  to  one  of  those  princi- 
ples, and  supposing  the  other  to  have  no  influence.  In 
general,  we  may  observe  that  both  these  principles 
operate  on  the  will ;  and  what  we  call  strength  of  mind, 
implies  the  prevalence  of  the  calm  passions  above  the 
violent ;  though  we  may  easily  observe  that  there  is  no 
person  so  constantly  possessed  of  this  virtue,  as  never  on 
any  occasion  to  yield  to  the  solicitations  of  violent  desire 
and  affection :  and  from  these  variations  of  temper, 
proceed  the  great  difficulty  of  deciding  with  regard  to 
the  future  actions  and  resolutions  of  men,  where  there  is 
any  contrariety  of  motives  and  passions. 

Without  some  calm  passion, — some  degree  of  some 
species  of  desire, — the  mind  could  not  long  endure. 
Such  a  state  is  probably  the  state  of  fatuity,  or  idiotism. 
A  man  in  such  a  condition,  would  stop  in  the  middle  of 
a  street,  and  remain  there  all  his  life.  Some  degree  of 
passion,  therefore,  is  not  only  pleasing,  but  necessary. 
Whenever  this  stimulus  of  passion  does  not  exist  in  due 


326  LECTURE    XXIII. 

proportion,  we  feel  ennui :  when  there  is  a  just  degree 
of  passion,  and  that  passion  directs  us  to  objects  easily- 
attainable,  we  feel  contented, — for  content  is  not  the 
absence  of  calm  passion,  but  the  constant  facility  of 
gratifying  it  without  too  much  difficulty,  and  without 
subsequent  inconvenience.  Not  only  is  a  state  of  calm 
passion  pleasant,  but  a  state  of  violent  emotion  appears 
to  have  its  allurements.  Young  persons  love  danger  for 
danger's  sake.  School-boys  climb  walls  and  trees  be- 
cause it  is  agreeable  to  them  to  be  afraid  of  tumbling ; — 
and  this  explains  the  pleasure  of  mischief.  A  school-boy 
flings  a  stone  into  a  window,  and,  running  to  some 
distance,  stops  to  enjoy  the  violent  rage  of  the  person 
whose  window  has  been  broken  :  the  moderate  risk  he 
runs,  is  a  very  pleasant  excitement  to  him.  Nay,  he 
will  tie  a  rope  across  a  place  where  he  knows  people  are 
to  pass,  even  where  he  can  not  wait  to  see  them  tumble  : 
the  mere  imagination  of  so  much  terror  and  confusion, 
fills  him  with  pleasant  feelings,  and  he  is  convulsed  with 
laughter  at  the  very  thoughts  of  it. 

Young  men  turn  soldiers  and  sailors  from  the  love  of 
being  agitated  ;  and  for  the  same  reason,  country  gentle- 
men leap  over  stone  walls.  This — and  not  avarice — is 
the  explanation  of  gaming.  Men  who  game,  are,  in 
general,  very  little  addicted  to  avarice ;  but  they  court 
the  conflict  of  passions  which  gaming  produces,  and 
which  guards  them  from  the  dullness  and  ennui  to 
which  they  would  otherwise  feel  themselves  exposed. 
The  love  of  emotion  is  the  foundation  of  tragedy;  and 
so  pleasant  is  it  to  be  moved,  that  we  set  off'  for  the  ex- 
press purpose  of  looking  excessively  dismal  for  two  hours 
and  a  half,  interspersed  with  long  intervals  of  positive 
sobbing.  The  taste  for  emotion  may,  however,  become 
a  dangerous  taste ;  and  we  should  be  very  cautious  how 
we  attempt  to  squeeze  out  of  human  life,  more  ecstasy 
and  paroxysm  than  it  can  well  afford.  It  throws  an  air 
of  insipidity  over  the  greater  part  of  our  being,  and 
lavishes  on  a  few  favored  moments  the  joy  which  was 
given  to  season  our  whole  existence.  It  is  to  act  like 
school-boys, — to  pick  the  plums  and  sweetmeats  out  of 
the  cake,  and  quarrel   with  the  insipidity  of  the  batter; 


ON    THE    PASSIONS.  327 

whereas  the  business  is,  to  infuse  a  certain  share  of 
flavor  throughout  the  whole  of  the  mass  ;  and  not  so  to 
habituate  ourselves  to  strong  impulse  and  extraordinary 
feeling,  that  the  common  tenor  of  human  affairs  should 
appear  to  us  incapable  of  amusement,  and  devoid  of 
interest.  The  only  safe  method  of  indulging  this  taste 
for  emotion,  is  by  seeking  for  its  gratification,  not  in 
passion,  but  in  science,  and  all  the  pleasures  of  the 
understanding ;  by  mastering  some  new  difficulty  ;  by 
seeing  some  new  field  of  speculation  open  itself  before 
us ;  by  learning  the  creations,  the  divisions,  the  connec- 
tions, the  designs,  and  contrivances  of  nature.  If  we 
seek  relief  from  the  lassitude  of  common  thoughts  and 
common  things,  these  are  the  only  emotions  which  at 
once  are  innocent,  inexhaustible,  and  sublime. 

It  is  impossible  not  to  suppose  that  there  is  a  con- 
siderable degree  of  connection  between  the  intellectual, 
and  active  powers ;  that  talents  must  produce  a  striking 
influence  upon  affections,  and  affections  upon  talents. 
The  extremes  are  very  easily  perceived ;  there  is  a 
degree  of  energy  in  the  active  powers,  utterly  incompati- 
ble with  any  exercise  of  the  understanding  at  all.  In 
paroxysms  of  rage  and  grief,  not  only  the  arrangement 
of  ideas,  but  even  the  utterance  of  words,  becomes  quite 
impossible :  and  on  the  opposite  side,  it  can  not  be 
conceived  how  the  understanding  comes  to  act  at  all ; 
how  it  does  any  thing  more  than  merely  perceive,  with- 
out the  influence  of  some  desire  or  affection ;  however 
low  and  however  calm  that  degree  may  be.  The  influ- 
ence of  passion  upon  the  understanding,  will,  of  course, 
be  very  different,  according  to  the  different  parts  of  the 
understanding  to  which  it  is  applied.  To  all  efforts  of 
the  imagination,  a  certain  degree  of  passion  appears 
highly  favorable  ; — anger  quickens  wit,  multiplies  images 
and  words,  and  gives  a  flow  and  a  fecundity,  of  which 
the  mind  is  utterly  destitute  in  its  ordinary  state.  Every 
man  is  eloquent  in  speaking  of  himself,  from  the  direct 
influence  which  his  passions  have  upon  his  imagination. 
The  finest  and  most  affecting  parts  of  Cicero,  are  always 
about  himself;  every  passion  of  his  great  mind,  seems  to 
be   at   work,  in    that   noble  conclusion   of  the   second 


328  LECTURE    XXIII. 

philippic,  which  afterward  cost  him  his  life.  "  But  do 
you,  Antony,"  he  says,  "  look  to  yourself;  and  I  will 
confess  what  are  my  principles :  I  have  defended  the 
republic  when  I  was  young,  I  will  not  desert  it  now  I  am 
old :  I  have  despised  the  sword  of  Catiline,  and  the 
sword  of  Antony  shall  not  alarm  me.  Most  willingly 
would  I  sacrifice  this  body,  if,  by  my  death,  the  liberty 
of  Rome  could  be  established.  Did  not  I  say  twenty 
years  ago,  in  this  very  senate,  that  when  a  man  perished 
who  had  reached  the  dignity  of  consul,  he  could  not  be 
said  to  have  perished  prematurely?  And  do  you  think, 
now  that  old  age  is  come  upon  me,  I  will  retract  or  deny 
this  doctrine  ?  Conscript  fathers,  I  wish  for  death  ;  I 
have  gained  all  that  the  republic  can  bestow ;  I  have 
performed  all  that  it  can  require !  Let  death  come 
when  it  will,  I  am  prepared  to  meet  it.  I  have  only  two 
things  to  implore  :  first,  that  my  country  may  deal  out  to 
all  her  children  the  punishment  or  the  reward  they 
merit ;  next,  that  when  I  do  die,  I  may  leave  the  Romans 
free.  If  the  Gods  grant  me  this,  there  is  nothing  else 
which  they  can  bestow." 

No  one  could  say  of  Mr.  Burke,  that  he  did  not  write 
with  passion  ;  and  whenever  his  passions  are  awakened, 
his  imagination  appears  to  be  fecundated :  he  is  meta- 
phorical at  all  times  ;  but  when  he  feels  strongly,  every 
thing  is  simile,  allusion,  and  metaphor  ;  and  these  are 
poured  out,  in  a  manner  quite  natural ;  as  if  the  habitual 
effect  of  passion  in  him,  were,  to  conjure  up  all  this 
splendid  imagery,  and  to  give  unusual  promptitude  to 
the  current  of  his  ideas. 

But,  though  passion  always  comes  in  aid  of  a  fine 
imagination,  it  very  often  happens  that  we  meet  with 
imagination  without  passion  or  feeling, — and  feeling  and 
passion  without  imagination. 

There  is  a  beautiful  passage  in  the  book  of  Ruth, 
which,  though  full  of  feeling,  has  no  imagination.  "And 
Ruth  said  to  her  mother,  Naomi,  Entreat  me  not  to  leave 
thee :  for  whither  thou  goest,  I  will  go ;  and  where  thou 
lodgest,  I  will  lodge ;  thy  people  shall  be  my  people,  and 
thy  God  shall  be  my  God  :  where  thou  diest  I  will  die, 
and  there  will  I  be  buried  :    the  Lord  do  so  to  me.  and 


ON    THE    PASSIONS,  329 

more  also,  if  aught  but  death  part  thee  and  me !"  No- 
thing can  be  more  beautiful,  but  there  is  no  imagination 
in  it.  If  Cowley,  or  any  of  the  poets  of  Cowley's  school, 
had  had  to  express  the  same  degree  of  affection,  he  would 
most  probably  have  found  several  reasons  why  the  affec- 
tion of  Ruth  for  Naomi  resembled  lightning,  smoke,  air, 
fire,  water,  and  clouds ;  what  properties  it  had  in  com- 
mon with  the  shooting  of  a  meteor ;  and  in  what  way  it 
might  be  compared  both  to  morning  and  evening,  and 
the  middle  of  the  day  :  in  short,  he  would  have  displayed 
a  great  deal  of  imagination  totally  barren  of  all  passion. 

To  inventive  reasoning,  the  passions  are  very  favor- 
able. The  resources  which  men  exhibit  in  shipwrecks, 
and  on  desert  islands,  are  perfectly  astonishing.  In  the 
attempt  to  escape  from  prison,  as  much  has  been  done 
with  a  rusty  nail,  as  the  best  artisan  could  hardly  have 
effected  with  the  best  tools,  in  any  ordinary  state  of  ex- 
citement of  mind.  In  short,  the  process  of  invention  in 
reasoning,  is  exactly  the  same  as  the  process  of  invention 
in  poetry.  In  passion,  the  mind  dwells  intensely  on  one 
object ;  all  the  ideas  related  to  it,  occur  from  associa- 
tion ;  and  we  seize  upon  the  epithet,  the  argument,  or 
the  mechanical  invention,  which  we  judge  the  best. 
Passion  aids  the  understanding,  by  multiplying  the  asso- 
ciations. It  was  precisely  the  same  effect  which  passion 
produced,  that  aided  Cicero  when  he  attacked  Antony ; 
Archimedes,  when  he  defended  Syracuse ;  and  Baron 
Trenck,  when  he  broke  out  of  prison.  It  may  be  doubted, 
whether  quick  and  strong  passions  are  not  inimical  to 
those  circumspect  habits  of  mind,  wrhich  are  necessary 
to  a  good  taste ;  for  I  should  conceive  that,  in  the  ac- 
quirement of  a  fine  taste,  first  emotions  must  be  very 
often  checked,  and  the  mind  kept  in  a  state  of  suspense, 
till  the  relation  of  each  part  to  the  whole  has  been  ex- 
amined, and  the  effect  of  surprise  properly  allowed  for. 

There  is  a  state  of  mind,  however,  in  which  it  is  as 
important  to  keep  a  crowd  of  ideas  out  of  the  mind,  as 
it  is  at  others  to  excite  them  ;  and,  at  such  periods,  the 
presence  of  any  lively  passion  must  be  detrimental. 
When  we  wish  to  fix  the  attention  upon  one  object,  to 
ascertain  all  its  properties,  and  the  relations  it  bears  to 


330  LECTURE    XXIII. 

some  other  object,  nothing  can  be  more  unfavorable  to 
such  habits  of  accurate  observation,  than  that  crowd  of 
slightly  related  ideas,  with  which  the  passions  are  apt  to 
people  the  understanding. 

With  respect  to  the  general  connection  between  pas- 
sions and  talents,  no  rule  can  be  laid  down,  by  which  the 
existence  of  the  one  is  with  any  certainty  inferred  from 
the  existence  of  the  other.  Great  passions  may  coexist 
with  a  very  low  state  of  talent ;  and  great  talents  with 
a  very  low  state  of  passion.  Nor  does  it  by  any  means 
appear,  that  the  cold-blooded  race  of  men,  are  intended 
to  act  a  less  conspicuous  part  on  the  theater  of  the  world, 
than  those  whose  passions  are  the  most  acute,  and  the 
most  irritable.  The  liberty  of  Europe,  is  at  present 
threatened  by  a  man  of  the  most  impetuous  passions  ; 
the  independence  of  America,  was  established  by  a  man 
who  certainly  had  his  passions  in  the  most  perfect  com- 
mand. Alexander  was  a  madman ;  Augustus,  calm 
and  artful.  When  we  compare  together  the  retarding, 
and  the  impelling  part  of  the  machinery,  it  would  be 
crude  and  hasty  language,  to  give  one  any  preference 
over  the  other.  If  there  be  any  man,  who  has  great  pas- 
sions which  he  can  command,  and  obey,  according  to 
circumstances,  such  a  man  must  in  the  end  be  greater 
than  all  others  of  equal  talents. 

The  passions,  I  have  before  stated  to  be  affected  by 
every  circumstance  which  affects  the  body ;  as  age, 
health,  climate,  and  race  :  they  are  affected  by  govern- 
ment, by  rank,  by  sex,  by  education,  by  the  degree  of 
refinement  of  the  age,  by  solitude,  by  society,  and  by 
habit.  In  fact,  the  passions  are  acted  upon  by  every 
outward  and  inward  circumstance ;  but  these  are  the 
principal.  It  is  very  easy  to  conceive,  that  governments 
absolutely  under  the  control  of  the  people,  and  abso- 
lutely under  the  control  of  one  person,  must  have  a 
strong  tendency  to  encourage  different  passions :  that 
the  same  circumstance  must  be  true  of  commercial,  and 
of  military  nations  ;  that  where  the  youth  of  any  country 
hear  nothing  spoken  of,  at  their  first  coming  into  life, 
but  the  acquisition  of  property,  and  perceive  that  every 
one  increases  in  estimation  as  he  advances  in  opulence, 


ON    THE    PASSIONS.  331 

it  is  highly  probable  that  the  active  principles  by  which 
he  will  be  controlled,  will  be  of  a  very  different  nature 
from  what  they  would  have  been,  if  he  had  been  nursed 
in  the  tumult  and  glory  of  arms.  Civilization  must  have 
a  prodigious  effect  upon  the  passions ;  it  must  supersede 
the  necessity  of  revenge,  by  strengthening  the  power  of 
law ;  whereas,  in  barbarous  times,  a  man  has  only  his 
own  malevolent  passions  to  trust  to  for  protection. 
Courtesy,  and  the  appearance  of  benevolence,  are 
fashionable ;  reputation  becomes  valuable,  and  a  certain 
degree  of  good  faith  is  more  generally  diffused. 

The  most  considerable  difference  between  the  active 
powers  of  the  sexes,  is,  that  women  are  more  generally 
under  the  influence  of  fear;  and  they  rather  avoid 
shame,  than  seek  glory.  They  are  probably,  also,  more 
under  the  influence  of  the  benevolent  feelings  than  men, 
because,  in  the  distribution  of  duties,  a  great  number  of 
benevolent  offices  devolve  upon  them  ;  and  because  they 
are  exempted  from  all  those  which  require  an  immediate 
exertion  of  the  malevolent  passions,  or  at  least  a  suppres- 
sion of  the  benevolent  ones.  It  is  the  duty  of  men  to 
cut  off  limbs,  hang  criminals,  and  massacre  the  enemies 
of  their  country,  whenever  they  are  able :  they  are 
soldiers,  judges,  and  physicians  : — women  are  carefully 
protected  from  every  situation  which  requires  the  sacri- 
fice of  a  single  instant  of  benevolence.  Speaking  very 
generally  and  grossly,  the  effect  of  solitude  is  to  cherish 
great  virtues,  and  to  destroy  little  ones.  "  Society," 
says  Adam  Smith,  "is  the  best  preservative  of  that 
equal  and  happy  temper,  which  is  so  necessary  to  self- 
satisfaction  and  enjoyment :  men  of  retirement  and 
speculation,  who  are  apt  to  sit  brooding  at  home  over 
either  grief  or  resentment,  though  they  may  often  have 
more  humanity,  more  generosity,  and  a  nicer  sense  of 
honor,  yet  seldom  possess  that  equality  of  temper  which 
is  so  common  among  men  of  the  world." 

The  difference  of  the  passions,  and  the  different  pro- 
portions in  which  the  same  passions  are  measured  out  to 
different  individuals,  form  the  leading  and  most  prom- 
inent diversities  in  human  character.  Men  differ  from 
each  other  very  materially,  as  their  desires  are  negative 


332  LECTURE    XXIIL 

or  positive  ; — as  they  wish  to  obtain  praise,  or  to  avoid 
blame.  In  the  first  class  are  the  vain,  the  ambitious,  and 
the  active  part  of  the  human  race  :  the  last  contains  men 
of  reserve,  of  humility,  and  of  caution  ;  who,  provided 
they  do  not  incur  ridicule  and  disgrace,  are  well  con- 
tented to  leave  to  others  the  contest  for  distinction. 

Men  differ,  as  their  desires  are  vehement  or  weak. 
Some  can  hardly  be  said  to  have  any  desires  at  all; 
others  would  overturn  kingdoms,  and  mingle  heaven 
with  earth,  to  effect  the  least  of  all  their  desires. 

Another  variety  in  human  character  is,  the  length  or 
continuation  of  desire,  which,  united  with  vehemence  of 
desire,  makes,  I  believe,  what  we  call  strength  of  char- 
acter ;  for  we  could  not  deny  to  any  man  that  attribute, 
who  wished  any  thing  vehemently,  and  continued  in  the 
pursuit  of  it  steadily ;  at  least,  if  it  was  his  habit  to  feel 
and  act  after  this  manner.  Then  again,  we  may  ob- 
serve a  striking  dissimilarity  among  men,  as  they  are 
governed  by  near  or  distant  motives  ;  or,  in  other  words, 
as  they  are  under  the  influence  of  calm,  or  strong  pas- 
sions. We  distinguish,  also,  between  warm  and  cold 
dispositions,  that  is,  between  different  degrees  of  the 
benevolent  feelings, — as  we  do  between  different  degrees 
of  irascibility,  in  the  epithets  irritable  and  patient.  Some 
men  are  extremely  benevolent  in  little  things,  and  dis- 
tinguish themselves  by  their  politeness ;  others  have  the 
great  virtues,  and  not  the  lesser  ones. 

A  disposition  to  fear,  or  to  hope,  makes  two  different 
classes  of  men ;  so  does  the  place,  or  degree,  in  which  a 
man  puts  himself,  with  regard  to  his  fellow-creatures. 
It  has  often  been  said,  that,  where  the  passions  are  the 
most  difficult  to  be  roused,  they  are  the  most  terrible 
when  they  are  roused.  It  is  most  probable  that  this 
opinion  is  not  quite  so  true  as  it  is  supposed  to  be,  from 
the  deception  which,  in  this  case,  must  necessarily  be 
exercised  upon  the  imagination  by  the  contrast.  Who- 
ever were  to  see  a  beautiful  young  lady  in  a  violent 
rage,  would  be  apt  to  think  it  much  more  excessive  and 
violent,  from  the  mere  novelty  and  surprise  of  the  thing, 
than  if  he  had  beheld  a  captain  of  a  man-of-war  in  a  sim- 
ilar situation  of  mind.     Again,  it  must  be  remembered, 


ON     THE    PASSIONS.  333 

that  the  causes  which  throw  a  person  of  a  mild  disposi- 
tion into  a  fit  of  rage,  must  be  very  strong,  to  commit 
such  an  outrage  upon  the  customary  habits  of  his  na- 
ture ;  whereas,  an  equal  degree  of  indignation  may  easily 
be  produced  in  a  more  irritable  disposition,  by  a  cause 
less  grave  and  important.  But,  the  degree  of  provoca- 
tion being  given,  and  the  effects  of  novelty  allowed  for, 
it  is  not  easy  to  see,  why  the  passions  of  a  phlegmatic 
man,  once  roused,  should  be  stronger  and  more  difficult 
to  be  allayed  than  those  of  one  more  accustomed  to  pas- 
sion. One  solution,  indeed,  there  is,  which  has  some  ap- 
pearance of  plausibility.  Men  accustomed,  for  instance, 
to  anger,  may  often  have  suffered  from  anger ;  though 
unable  to  check  the  passion  entirely,  they  have  learned  a 
certain  degree  of  control  over  its  wildest  excesses,  and 
are  not,  at  those  moments,  quite  so  unable  to  govern 
themselves  as  they  appear  to  be  :  but,  where  passion  is 
new,  it  is  unsuspected,  unaccustomed  to  any  check,  and 
much  more  likely  to  hurry  en  to  excesses,  because  its 
excesses  are  not  feared,  and^hardly  known.  There  is  a 
certain  analogy  to  this  in  drunkenness.  Professed  reg- 
ular drunkards  preserve  a  certain  glimmering  of  reason, 
and  are  seldom  very  extravagant  in  their  behavior: 
drunkenness  in  a  person  unaccustomed  to  it  is  often  per- 
fect madness. 

Such  are  a  few  of  the  most  striking  phenomena  of  the 
passions,  which  move  the  world,  and  make  up  the  secret 
life  and  inward  existence  of  man  ;  for  what  we  do  see 
and  know  with  certainty  of  any  human  creature,  is, 
whether  he  is  lodged  in  marble  or  in  clay, — whether 
down  or  straw  is  his  bed, — whether  he  is  clothed  in  the 
purple  of  the  world,  or  molders  in  rags.  The  inward 
world,  the  man  within  the  breast,  the  dominion  of  thought, 
the  region  of  passion, — all  this  we  can  not  penetrate  :  we 
can  never  tell  how  a  kind  and  benevolent  heart  can 
cheer  a  desperate  fortune  ;  the  comfort  which  the  lowest 
man  may  feel  in  a  spotless  mind, — the  firmness  which  a 
man  derives  from  loving  justice, — the  glory  with  which 
he  rebukes  the  bad  emotion,  and  bids  his  passions  be  still. 
Therefore,  not  to  the  accidents  of  life,  but  to  the  foun- 
tains of  thought,  and  to  the  springs  of  pleasure  and  pain, 


334  LECTURE    XXIII. 

should  the  efforts  of  man  be  directed  to  rear  up  such 
sentiments  as  shall  guard  us  from  the  pangs  of  envy ;  to 
make  us  rejoice  in  the  happiness  of  every  sentient  being ; 
to  feel  too  happy  ourselves  for  hatred  and  resentment; 
to  forget  the  body,  or  to  enslave  it  forever  ;  seeking  to 
purify,  to  exalt,  and  to  refine  our  nature.  This  is  the 
rigid  discipline  of  moral  philosophy,  which,  rigid  as  it  is, 
is  so  beautiful  and  so  good,  that  without  it  no  condition 
of  life  is  tolerable ;  with  it,  none  wretched,  sordid,  or 
mean. 


LECTURE    XXIV. 

ON   THE  DESIRES. 

Dr.  Reid,  in  his  essay  upon  the  Active  Powers,  re- 
marks of  our  desires,  that  they  have,  all  of  them,  things, 
not  persons,  for  their  object.  They  neither  imply  any 
good  nor  ill  affection  towards  any  person,  nor  even  tow- 
ard ourselves.  They  can  not,  therefore,  with  propriety 
be  called  either  selfish  or  social.  But  there  are  various 
principles  of  actions  in  men,  which  have  persons  for 
their  immediate  objects,  and  imply,  in  their  very  nature, 
our  being  well  or  ill  affected  to  some  person,  or  at  least 
to  some  animated  being.  "  Such  principles,"  says  Dr. 
Reid,  "  I  call  by  the  general  name  of  affections  ;  whether 
they  dispose  us  to  do  good  or  hurt  to  others."  This 
method,  by  which  passions  are  referred  to  persons, 
and  desires  to  things,  has  been  also  adopted  by  Mr. 
Dugald  Stewart,  in  his  "  Outlines  of  Moral  Philosophy," 
without  any  alteration.  But  if  desire  concern  only 
things,  why  is  the  love  of  esteem  classed  among  the 
desires  ?  for  that,  surely,  respects  persons  ;  and  why  are 
joy  and  grief  classed  among  the  passions  without  any 
limitation  ?  for  grief  may  be  occasioned  by  the  loss  of 
£20,000.,  as  by  the  loss  of  an  aunt  or  a  cousin.  There 
is  a  grief  occasioned  by  persons,  and  a  grief  occasioned 
by  things  ;  but  both  Dr.  Reid  and  Mr.  Stewart  would 
not  scruple  to  call  grief — let  its  cause  be  what  it  would 
— by  the  name  of  passion.  The  first  object,  surely,  in 
all  investigations  of  this  nature,  is  to  ascertain  in  what 
sense  such  words  are  actually  used  :  and  then,  after 
showing  that  such  uses  are  unsatisfactory  or  vague,  to 
propose  that  deviation  from  the  established  meaning, 
which,  being  the  most  useful,  is  the  least  violent.     In 


336  LECTURE    XXIV. 

chemistry,  mineralogy,  or  any  science  remote  from  com- 
mon life,  the  popular  language  which  respects  them,  is 
commonly  not  only  useless,  but  it  conduces  to  error  ; 
and  is  better  kept  out  of  view  :  but  in  the  language  of 
feeling,  words  are  of  great  importance,  because  every 
man  feels  they  are  the  repositories  of  human  judgments, 
upon  a  subject  on  which  all  men  are,  more  or  less,  cal- 
culated to  judge.  It  will  appear,  I  believe,  that,  in  all 
this  business  of  feelipg,  there  are  three  things  which  have 
particularly  attracted  our  notice  : — the  violent  perturba- 
tion or  derangement  the  mind  suffers  ;  the  wish  to  do 
something,  or  obtain  something,  with  which  that  pertur- 
bation is  accompanied ;  and  the  cause  from  which  that 
perturbation  is  derived. 

"  Achilles  heard  :  with  grief  and  rage  opprest, 
His  heart  swell' d  high,  and  labor'd  in  his  breast ; 
Distracting  thoughts  by  turns  his  bosom  ruled, 
Now  fired  by  wrath,  and  now  by  reason  cool'd  : 
That  prompts  his  hand  to  draw  the  deadly  sword, 
Force  through  the  Greeks,  and  pierce  their  haughty  lord  ; 
This  whispers  soft,  his  vengeance  to  control, 
And  calm  the  rising  tempest  of  the  soul." 

In  this,  and  in  every  other  picture  of  extreme  passion, 
it  is  to  the  perturbation  itself,  its  causes,  and  its  conse- 
quences, that  we  direct  our  inquiry.  Whenever  the 
emotion  proceeds  from  a  bodily  cause,  and  is  accom- 
panied with  a  wish  to  act,  or  to  obtain,  we  give  to  that 
emotion  the  name  of  appetite  ; — as  in  the  instance  of  hun- 
ger and  thirst.  Here  the  mind  is  thrown  into  a  state  of 
emotion, — the  body  is  the  cause  of  that  emotion  ;  and  it 
is  accompanied  by  a  wish  to  obtain,  and  to  act.  No 
one  would  now  call  hunger  and  thirst,  passions  ;  or  im- 
agine that  the  celebrated  authoress  of  the  Plays  on  the 
Passions,  is  bound,  in  the  prosecution  of  her  task,  to  bring 
forward  a  hero  who  has  not  eaten  any  thing  for  forty- 
eight  hours,  and  to  conclude  such  a  play  with  the  ca- 
tastrophe of  a  dinner  or  a  supper. 

We  say  a  desire  for  food,  as  well  as  an  appetite  for 
food  ;  but  in  speaking  of  the  desires,  and  the  appetites,  we 
should  hardly  class  together  the  desire  of  knowledge,  and 
the  desire  of  drink.     It  seems  generally  agreed,  where 


ON     THE    DESIRES.  337 

any  kind  of  precision  is  required,  to  call  the  bodily  emo- 
tions by  the  name  of  appetites  ;  and  the  mental  ones,  by 
those  of  passion  or  desire. 

When  the  cause,  then,  of  the  emotion  is  the  body, — 
and  when  it  is  accompanied  with  an  active  tendency,  it 
is  called  appetite  ;  when  it  is  not,  it  receives  simply  the 
name  of  bodily  pain  or  pleasure.  We  may  say  meta- 
phorically, that  gout,  rheumatism,  and  lumbago,  are  the 
unpleasant  passions  of  the  body  ;  that  warmth  and  re- 
pletion are  its  agreeable  passions. 

Whenever  we  see  any  emotion  of  the  mind  which  has 
not  the  body  for  its  cause,  we  call  it  desire,  if  it  lead  to 
action  ; — passion,  if  it  do  not.  No  one  calls  grief  and 
joy,  hope  and  fear,  by  the  name  of  desire.  To  suffer 
from  the  desire  of  grief,  is  nonsense  ;  to  suffer  from  the 
passion  of  grief,  is  the  customary  phrase.  They  are  not 
called  desires,  because  they  are  not  the  immediate  causes 
of  action.  We  say  the  desire  of  knowledge,  the  desire 
of  esteem,  the  desire  of  power,  because  they  are  emotions 
leading  immediately  to  action.  Some  emotions  we  call 
indiscriminately  by  the  name  of  passion  or  desire :  but 
this  exactly  confirms  what  I  say ;  for  when  we  speak  of 
the  passion  of  revenge,  we  are  more  particularly  think- 
ing of  the  perturbation  the  mind  endures  ;  when  we 
speak  of  revenge  as  a  desire,  we  have  in  mind  the  ten- 
dency to  action  which  it  occasions :  therefore,  if  I  am 
right,  the  idea  of  referring  desires  to  things,  and  passions 
to  persons,  is  quite  unfounded ;  and  this  will  turn  out  to 
be  somewhere  near  their  meaning. 

Appetites  are  emotions  of  mind,  proceeding  from  a 
bodily  cause,  and  leading  immediately  to  action :  there 
are  also  animal  pains  and  pleasures,  which  are  emotions 
of  the  mind  proceeding  from  a  bodily  cause,  and  not  lead- 
ing immediately  to  action. — Passions  are  emotions  of  the 
mind,  not  proceeding  from  a  bodily  cause,  and  not  lead- 
ing immediately  to  action. — Desires  are  emotions  of  the 
mind  not  proceeding  from  a  bodily  cause,  and  leading  to 
action. — And  lastly,  whenever  we  use  the  two  words, 
desire  and  passion,  for  the  same  affection  of  mind,  it  is 
because  in  the  one,  we  consider  what  the  mind  endures 

P 


338  LECTURE    XXIV, 

from  the  emotion ;  in  the  other,  how  it  is  impelled  to  act 
by  the  emotion. 

I  am  aware  it  would  be  very  curious,  as  well  as  very 
useful,  here  to  consider  how  far  the  same  divisions  and 
distinctions  obtain  in  other  languages,  which  are  adopted 
in  our  own :  it  would  not  be  very  difficult  to  do  it,  but 
it  would  necessarily  lead  to  long  verbal  discussions, 
which  might  be  very  agreeable  to  two  or  three  persons, 
and  very  tiresome  to  every  one  beside. 

I  have  already  classed  those  emotions  of  the  neutral 
class,  which  are  called  either  desires  or  passions,  among 
the  latter  ;  because  I  found  them  so  classed,  and  because 
it  did  not  then  occur  to  me,  what  was  the  distinguishing 
circumstance  between  the  passions  and  desires.  The 
desires,  of  which  I  shall  treat  at  present,  are,  the  desire 
of  knowledge,  the  desire  of  esteem,  the  desire  of  power, 
the  desire  of  possession,  and  the  desire  of  activity  :  not 
that  these  are  the  only  desires  which  possess  the  mind, 
but  that  almost  all  the  lesser  motives  are  immediately 
resolvable  into  them.  Let  every  man  consider  the  innu- 
merable principles  of  action  by  which  he  is  every  day 
impelled,  and  he  will  very  soon  discover  that  these  de- 
sires are  the  origin  of  them  all.  You  take  a  walk  ;  that 
is,  you  are  under  the  influence  of  that  principle  of  nature, 
which  makes  continued  rest  painful  to  you ;  or  you  go 
to  call  upon  some  one,  who  will  make  you  more  rich,  or 
more  powerful ;  or  you  go  to  a  tailor,  who  will  make 
you  more  respectable  in  your  appearance.  These  great 
operating  principles  are  broken  down  into  innumerable 
divisions  and  subdivisions ;  but  there  are  very  few  of 
our  actions  which  can  not  be  traced  to  their  source. 
The  ten  thousand  minute  things  which  we  all  perform 
every  day,  all  proceed,  directly  or  indirectly,  from  the 
great  principles  which  I  have  enumerated.  Look  at 
the  bustle  of  Bond  street;  drive  from  thence  to  the 
Royal  Exchange ;  observe  the  infinite  variety  of  occu- 
pations, movements,  and  agitations,  as  you  go  along : 
nothing  can  appear  more  intricate, — more  impossible  to 
be  reduced  to  any  thing  like  rule  or  system ;  and  yet  a 
very  few  elements  put  all  this  mass  of  human  beings 
into  action.    If  a  messenger  from  heaven  were  on  a  sud- 


UN    THE    DESIRES.  .339 

den  to  annihilate  the  love  of  power,  the  love  of  wealth, 
and  the  love  of  esteem,  in  the  human  heart ;  in  half  an 
hour's  time  the  streets  would  be  as  empty,  and  as  silent, 
as  they  are  in  the  middle  of  the  night.  I  take  it  to  be  a 
consequence  of  civilization,  that  all  the  feelings  of  mind 
which  proceed  from  the  body  excite  little  sympathy,  in 
comparison  with  those  which  have  not  a  bodily  origin. 
The  loss  of  a  leg  and  an  arm  is  a  dreadful  misfortune ; 
but  the  slightest  disgrace  would  be  considered  as  a  much 
greater.  To  be  laid  up  seven  months  in  the  gout  every 
year  is  a  piteous  state  of  existence ;  to  lose  a  brother  or 
a  sister  is  a  state  of  existence,  in  common  estimation, 
still  more  miserable.  The  slightest  pang  of  jealousy,  or 
wounded  pride,  may  be  brought  upon  the  stage ;  but  the 
most  intense  pain  of  body,  introduced  into  a  play,  would 
excite  laughter  rather  than  compassion.  Who  would 
endure  a  tragedy,  where  the  whole  distress  turned  upon 
a  fit  of  the  palsy,  or  a  smart  rheumatic  fever?  Nothing 
could  be  more  exquisitely  ridiculous !  The  fact  is,  as  a 
nation  advances  in  the  useful  arts,  all  bodily  evils  are  so 
much  mitigated,  and  guarded  against,  that  they  cease  to 
excite  that  sympathy  which  they  formerly  did,  because 
they  are  less  generally  felt. 

How  ridiculous,  as  I  before  remarked,  a  play  would  be, 
of  which  a  hungry  man  were  the  hero !  Why  ? — be- 
cause we  never  suffer  from  extreme  hunger,  and  have 
very  little  sympathy  for  it ;  there  is  hardly  any  such 
thing  known  in  civilized  society  :  the  author  himself 
would,  probably,  be  the  only  man  in  the  whole  play- 
house, who  had  ever  seriously  felt  the  want  of  a  dinner. 
But  if  a  nation  of  savages  were  to  see  such  a  drama  act- 
ed, they  would  see  no  ridicule  in  it  at  all ;  because  starv- 
ing to  death  is,  among  them,  no  uncommon  thing :  they 
are  advanced  such  a  little  way  in  civilization,  that  to  fill 
their  stomachs,  is  the  great  and  important  object  of  life : 
and  I  have  no  doubt,  that  to  an  Indian  audience,  the  loss 
of  a  piece  of  venison  might  be  the  basis  of  a  tragedy 
which  would  fill  every  eye  with  tears ;  but,  on  the  con- 
trary, they  might  be  very  likely  to  laugh,  to  hear  a  man 
complain  of  his  wounded  honor,  if  it  turned  out  that  he 
had  ten  days'  provision  beforehand  in  his  cabin.     In  the 


340  LECTURE    XXIV. 

same  manner,  the  loss  of  a  leg  is  the  consummation  of 
all  evil,  where  there  is  nothing  but  body ;  but  it  becomes 
an  evil  of  the  lowest  order,  where  there  remain  behind 
the  pleasures  of  imagination,  of  elegant  learning,  of  the 
fine  arts,  of  all  the  luxuries  and  glories  of  civilization, — 
the  tendency  of  which  is  always  to  put  down  and  vilify 
every  thing  which  belongs  to  the  body,  and  to  exalt  all 
the  feelings  in  which  the  mind  alone  is  concerned.  In 
some  of  the  Greek  tragedies,  there  is  an  attempt  to 
excite  compassion  by  the  representation  of  the  agonies 
of  bodily  pain.  Philoctetes  cries  out  and  faints  from 
the  extremity  of  his  suffering,  exclaiming  upon  the  stage, 
*  Oh,  Jupiter  !  my  leg,  my  leg!"  Hyppolitus  and  Her- 
cules are  both  introduced  as  expiring  under  the  severest 
torments.  These  attempts  to  excite  compassion  by  the 
representation  of  bodily  pain,  are  certainly  among  the 
greatest  breaches  of  decorum,  of  which  the  Greek  theater 
has  set  the  example ;  and  afford  a  strong  suspicion  that 
their  audience  was  less  elegant  and  refined  than  that  which 
presides  over  our  modern  theaters.  And  the  reason 
why  such  sort  of  appeals  to  the  passions  would  not  now 
be  tolerated,  is,  not  so  much  on  account  of  the  pain  they 
would  excite  (because,  the  sufferings  of  the  mind  excite 
pain),  but  because  bodily  pain  is  a  dull,  stupid,  unvary- 
ing, uninteresting  spectacle,  in  comparison  with  all  those 
critical  and  delicate  emotions  of  mind,  which  are  univer- 
sally felt  in  a  state  of  civilization, — and  in  that  state 
alone.  Dr.  Adam  Smith  seems  to  imagine  that  our  dis- 
regard of  the  bodily  appetites  and  passions,  can  be  ac- 
counted for  on  general  principles.  "  Such  is  our  aver- 
sion," he  says,  "  for  all  the  appetites  which  take  their 
origin  from  the  body :  all  strong  expressions  of  them  are 
lothsome  and  disagreeable.  According  to  some  ancient 
philosophers,  these  are  the  passions  which  we  share  in 
common  with  the  brutes,  and  which,  having  no  connec- 
tion with  the  characteristical  qualities  of  human  nature, 
are  upon  that  account  beneath  its  dignity.  But  there 
are  many  other  passions  which  we  share  in  common 
with  the  brutes,  such  as  resentment,  natural  affection, 
even  gratitude,  which  do  not,  upon  that  account,  appear 
to  be  so  brutal.     The  true  cause  of  the  peculiar  disgust 


ON    THE    DESIRES  841 

which  we  conceive  for  the  appetites  of  the  body,  when 
we  see  them  in  other  men,  is,  that  we  can  not  enter  into 
them.  To  the  person  himself  who  feels  them,  as  soon  as 
they  are  gratified,  the  object  that  excited  them  ceases  to 
be  agreeable  :  even  its  presence  often  becomes  offensive 
to  him  ;  he  looks  round  to  no  purpose  for  the  charm 
which  transported  him  the  moment  before  ;  and  he  can 
now  as  little  enter  into  his  own  passion  as  another 
person."* 

I  can  not  think  this  explanation  to  be  just ;  but  it  seems 
to  me,  that  all  the  pains  and  pleasures  of  the  body  are 
degraded,  and  put  down,  by  the  greater  pains  and  pleas- 
ures of  the  mind  introduced  by  civilization. 

Having  premised  these  observations,  I  proceed  to  con- 
sider the  desire  of  knowledge  itself. 

A  child  loves  novelty,  because  the  excitement  which 
it  occasions  is  agreeable  :  he  does  not  consider  whether 
the  novelties  which  attract  his  attention  are  useful  or 
not ;  but  he  merely  loves  them  because  they  are  new. 
It  is  from  this  passion  that  he  becomes  so  rapidly  ac- 
quainted with  the  properties  of  matter.  In  what  we 
call  his  idlest  moments,  he  is  making  himself  acquainted 
with  the  qualities  of  objects,  and  the  powers  of  his  own 
body  ; — is  wax  soft  ?  is  iron  hard  ?  is  wood  fit  to  eat  ? 
how  high  can  I  jump  ?  what  can  I  carry  ?  and  such  like 
questions,  which  may  be  called  the  grammar  of  exist- 
ence, a  child  is  perpetually  resolving,  under  the  influ- 
ence of  novelty.  The  desire  of  knowledge  is  this  same 
principle,  guided  by  utility ;  for  no  person,  I  believe,  is 
said  to  acquire  knowledge,  who  merely  acquires  new 
truths,  but  only  he  who  acquires  new  useful  truths.  It 
would  not  be  impossible  to  ascertain  how  many  persons 
there  are  in  Great  Britain  whose  names  begin  with  an 
S.  A  person  who  ascertained  this,  would  acquire  new 
truths  ;  but  we  should  hardly  say  he  was  influenced  by 
a  desire  of  knowledge. 

The  love  of  knowledge  is,  perhaps,  very  seldom  gen- 
uine :  it  is  not  loved  for  the  direct  pleasure  it  affords, 
but  to  avoid  disgrace ;  or  to  obtain  money,  or  fame,  or 

*  Dr.  Adam  Smith's  "  Moral  Sentiments,"  part  i.  p.  46. 


342  LECTURE    XXIV. 

power  ;  or  for  the  pleasure  of  communicating  it.  There 
are,  I  fancy,  very  few  of  those  who  love  knowledge  the 
best,  that  would  pursue  it  with  any  great  degree  of 
ardor,  if  they  were  so  completely  excluded  from  society, 
as  to  render  it  impossible  that  they  should  communicate 
with  mankind,  either  in  person,  or  by  their  works.  The 
fact  is,  that  to  seek  for  those  novelties  which  are  hidden 
in  history,  or  in  science, — to  wait  for  our  gratifications 
so  long,  and  to  withstand  so  many  present  impulses  of 
sense,  as  every  lover  of  knowledge  must  do, — is  no  very 
easy  thing.  It  requires  all  these  auxiliary  passions  to 
help  it  out.  It  rewards  so  much,  that  it  ought  to  be 
rewarded;  it  confers  so  much  honor,  that  it  ought  to 
be  honored ;  it  communicates  so  much  pleasure,  that 
it  ought  to  be  pleased  ;  it  is  so  immensely  valuable  to 
mankind,  that  no  motive  which  gives  it  birth  can  be  a 
bad  one.  The  best,  however,  of  all  motives  is  (as  Lord 
Bacon  has  told  us),  that  we  may  employ  the  gift  of 
reason,  given  us  by  God,  to  the  use  and  advantage  of 
man.  The  love  of  knowledge,  merely  for  its  own  sake, 
and  without  any  reference  to  its  utility,  is  a  passion 
quite  similar  to  that  which  is  felt  by  a  child ; — a  desire 
to  procure  excitement  from  novelty  and  surprise.  The 
immediate  and  instant  pleasure  derived  from  reading  an 
ingenious  problem  in  Euclid,  is  not  different  from  that 
which  a  child  would  feel  at  the  sight  of  a  new  toy  ;  but 
a  man  before  he  sets  about  gratifying  this  passion  for 
novelty,  satisfies  himself  that  the  novelties  which  he  is 
seeking,  are  useful.  So  that  the  love  of  knowledge  is 
very  often  a  mere  secondary  passion ;  and  it  proceeds 
from  the  love  of  that  fortune  and  fame,  which  is  the 
consequence  of  knowledge  ;  or,  when  it  seems  more 
original,  it  may  be  resolved  into  the  love  of  emotion  or 
novelty. 

But  though,  in  common,  the  love  of  knowledge  is 
solvable  into  some  other  passion  at  its  origin,  and  before 
it  is  formed  by  association,  yet  there  are  some  very 
remarkable  instances  of  the  pure  love  of  knowledge, 
where  it  is  not  easy  to  ascribe  its  existence  to  any  other 
cause.  Such  appears  to  have  been  the  case  with  James 
Ferguson,  the  philosopher  and  the  mechanic.     He  was 


ON    THE    DESIRES.  343 

born  in  Scotland,  of  the  poorest  parents  ;  and  his  love 
of  knowledge  began  to  exert  itself  at  the  earliest  age. 
He  learned  to  read  from  hearing  his  father  teach  his 
brother  :  and  had  made  that  acquisition  before  any  one 
suspected  it  in  the  slightest  degree.  He  made  a  pro- 
digious advance  in  mechanics  while  he  was  a  farmer's 
boy,  without  any  instructor,  or  the  help  of  any  one 
book.  Of  an  evening  after  he  had  brought  home  the 
sheep,  he  employed  himself  in  contemplating  the  stars ; 
and  began  the  study  of  astronomy,  by  laying  down,  from 
his  own  observation  only,  a  celestial  globe  :  in  these  ob- 
servations and  occupations  he  was  discovered,  and  in- 
troduced to  public  notice. 

The  famous  Buxton  had  not  the  slightest  recollection 
when  his  passion  for  numbers  began.  His  attention 
was,  from  the  earliest  times  of  his  life,  so  constantly 
fixed  upon  arithmetic,  that  he  frequently,  when  a  child, 
took  no  cognizance  of  external  objects ;  and  when  he 
did,  it.  was  only  of  their  numbers.  If  any  space  of  time 
was  mentioned,  he  immediately  reduced  it  to  seconds ; 
if  any  person  mentioned  that  he  had  been  traveling  so 
many  miles,  Buxton  told  him  the  number  of  hair's- 
breadths  he  had  been  over.  At  church,  he  found  it 
quite  impossible  to  attend  to  the  meaning  of  what  the 
clergyman  said,  but  he  knew  exactly  of  how  many  words, 
syllables,  and  letters,  the  sermon  consisted.  It  is  very 
difficult  to  ascribe  such  instances  as  these  to  any  other 
cause  than  the  mere  love  of  knowledge  itself;  but  in 
general,  it  is  the  instrument  of  some  other  desire  at  first, 
— till  at  last,  by  the  customary  process  of  association,  it 
becomes  to  be  loved  on  its  own  account.  The  desire 
of  knowledge  in  any  people  begins  from  the  love  of  nov- 
elty, is  cherished  by  the  love  of  utility,  and  then  princi- 
pally encouraged  by  the  fame  and  distinction  to  which  it 
leads.  Curiosity  would  be  the  first  motive  in  a  savage, 
to  examine  the  arms  and  instruments  of  Europeans ;  a 
consciousness  of  their  utility  would  increase  this  desire  ; 
and,  in  process  of  time,  the  distinctions  obtained  by  in- 
ventors and  improvers  of  these  things,  would  be  the 
most  customary  incitement  to  the  cultivation  of  knowl- 
edge.    Nothing  can  be  more  important  to  the  welfare 


344  LECTURE    XXIV. 

of  a  community,  than  the  wide  extension  of  rational 
curiosity  in  the  desire  of  knowledge ;  it  not  only  in- 
creases the  comforts,  enlivens  the  feelings,  and  improves 
the  faculties  of  man,  but  it  forms  the  firmest  barrier 
against  the  love  of  pleasure,  and  stops  the  progress  of 
corruption.  Every  nation  has  its  chances  for  happiness 
increased,  in  proportion  as  it  honors  and  rewards  a  spirit 
which,  above  all  things,  honors  and  rewards  it. 

The  strongest  of  all  our  desires,  seems  to  be  the  desire 
of  esteem.  It  is  the  cause  of  innumerable  other  desires : 
it  is  the  frequent  cause  (as  I  have  before  said)  of  the 
love  of  knowledge :  it  is  the  cause,  very  often,  of  the 
love  of  wealth;  for  no  man,  I  presume,  who  lived  in  a 
desert,  and  moved  about  without  a  single  soul  to  look 
at  him,  would  care  what  sort  of  a  coat  he  wore,  provided 
he  was  kept  from  the  cold ;  or  whether  he  eat  out  of 
earthenware,  or  silver,  provided  his  meat  was  kept  out 
of  the  dirt.  In  the  same  way,  the  love  of  power  may  be 
traced  to  it ;  not  but  that  there  exists  a  love  of  power, 
quite  independent  of  it, — but  that  men  very  often  love 
power,  only  for  the  additional  esteem  they  gain  from  it 
among  their  fellow-creatures.  The  love  of  life  perpetu- 
ally gives  way  to  the  love  of  esteem ;  men  are  shot,  and 
hacked  to  pieces,  from  the  hope  of  gaining  esteem,  or 
the  fear  of  losing  it.  Upon  this  subject  of  the  desire  of 
esteem,  there  are  two  opinions  which  require  considera- 
tion ;  the  one  of  Dr.  Adam  Smith,  the  other  of  Mr. 
Hume.  "  We  are  not  content,"  says  the  former  of 
these  writers,  "  with  praise,  unless  we  deserve  it ;  nor 
are  we  content  with  deserving  it,  unless  we  obtain  it." 
It  is  probable,  therefore,  that  there  are  two  original  prin- 
ciples in  the  human  mind;*  the  one,  the  love  of  praise; 
the  other,  the  love  of  praiseworthiness.  In  the  same 
manner,  we  are  not  easy  when  we  are  blamed,  even 
though  we  deserve  it ;  nor  are  we  easy  to  deserve  it, 
even  though  we  are  not  blamed :  therefore,  here  the 
double  principle  is  observable, — first,  the  dread  of  blame  ; 
next,  the  dread  of  blameworthiness.  The  opinion  of 
Mr.  Hume  is,  that  there  is  no  love  of  the  esteem  oi 
others,  except  as  that  esteem  enables  us  to  esteem  our- 
selves ;  that  the  thing  wanted  is  self-approbation ;  and 


ON    THE    DESIRES.  345 

the  praise  of  others  is  only  important  as  it  is  a  means  of 
gratifying  this  feeling.  . 

In  the  first  place,  what,  in  a  mere  moral  point  of  view, 
is  meant  by  self- approbation  ?  (Put  religion  out  of  the 
question  for  a  moment.)  Examine,  in  a  mere  human 
point  of  view,  what  passes  in  your  own  mind  when  you 
approve  yourself.  It  is  really  nothing  more  than  that 
pleasure  which  results  from  the  esteem  of  all  honest  and 
reflecting  men.  When  you  are  universally  blamed, 
though  you  know  you  have  done  right,  you  always  com- 
fort yourself  that  the  world  would  have  determined 
otherwise,  had  they  been  acquainted  with  all  the  circum- 
stances, and  informed  of  the  real  motives.  You  refer 
the  matter  to  a  more  enlightened  tribunal,  or  to  posterity: 
you  do  not  pretend  to  set  up  your  own  self- approbation, 
against  the  judgment  of  others  ;  but  you  approve  your- 
self, merely  because  you  say,  better  men,  more  enlight- 
ened men,  and  more  impartial  men,  would  have  decided 
in  a  very  different  manner.  Therefore,  I  can  not  see 
how  self-esteem,  and  the  desire  of  the  esteem  of  others, 
can  be  compared  together :  for,  called  upon  to  define 
self-esteem,  I  could  say  nothing  else  of  it  than  that  it 
was  that  agreeable  feeling  which  proceeds  from  the  be- 
lief that  we  possess,  or  that  we  ought  to  possess,  the 
esteem  of  others.  Then  again,  it  is  very  true,  that  we 
love  praise,  and  we  love  to  deserve  praise ;  but  the  love 
of  praiseworthiness  is  merely  a  consequence  of  the  love 
of  praise, — not  an  original  principle.  To  make  my 
meaning  the  more  clear,  I  will  put  this  case : — A  great 
battle  is  gained,  the  plan  and  dispositions  of  which  are 
admirable  ;  the  general  who  conducted  the  army  is  con- 
sidered as  a  consummate  master  of  the  military  art,  and 
arrives  at  the  very  summit  of  reputation  as  an  accom- 
plished officer  ;  but  this  plan  of  the  battle  was  drawn  out 
for  him  the  evening  before,  by  one  of  his  aides-de-camp, 
whose  original  conception  it  was,  and  to  whom  all  the 
merit  is  really  due.  Which  is  the  most  enviable  situa- 
tion ?  His,  who  is  praised  without  being  praiseworthy  ; 
or  his,  who  is  praiseworthy  without  being  praised  ?  No- 
body here  could  entertain  a  moment's  doubt  about  the 
matter,  that  the  praiseworthiness   is  preferable  to  the 


346  LECTURE    XXIV. 

praise.  But  why  ?  Merely  from  the  love  of  praise ; 
merely  because  it,  in  the  end,  procures  more  praise.  A 
miser  may  refuse  a  sum  of  money,  because,  by  so  doing, 
in  the  end  he  may  gain  a  greater :  his  reputation  is 
worth  more  to  him  than  the  sum  which  he  is  offered  for 
it ;  he  does  not  love  reputation  better  than  money,  but 
lie  loves  reputation  merely  because  he  loves  money. 
Just  so  with  praiseworthiness  :  it  grows  out  of  the  love 
of  praise,  and  is  only  preferred  to  it  at  any  particular 
time,  because,  by  that  temporary  preference,  it  is  prob- 
able more  praise,  in  the  end,  will  be  obtained ;  at  last, 
like  every  other  preference,  it  grows  into  a  habit. 

The  desire  of  power,  I  can  not  better  describe  than  in 
the  words  of  Mr.  Dugald  Stewart.  I  quote  from  his 
"  Outlines  of  Moral  Philosophy ;"  and  his  views  upon 
this  subject  appear  to  be  so  truly  excellent,  that  I  shall 
quote  them  at  some  length  : — 

"  Whenever  we  are  led  to  consider  ourselves  as  the 
authors  of  any  effect,  we  feel  a  sensible  pride  or  exulta- 
tion in  the  consciousness  of  power ;  and  the  pleasure  is, 
in  general,  proportioned  to  the  greatness  of  the  effect, 
compared  to  the  smallness  of  the  exertion. 

"  The  infant,  while  still  on  the  breast,  delights  in  ex- 
erting its  little  strength  upon  every  object  it  meets  with  ; 
and  is  mortified,  when  any  accident  convinces  it  of  its 
imbecility.  The  pastimes  of  the  boy  are,  almost  without 
exception,  such  as  suggest  to  him  the  idea  of  his  power : 
— and  the  same  remark  may  be  extended  to  the  active 
sports,  and  the  athletic  exercises,  of  youth  and  of  man- 
hood. 

"  As  we  advance  in  years,  and  as  our  animal  powers 
lose  their  activity  and  vigor,  we  gradually  aim  at  ex- 
tending our  influence  over  others,  by  the  superiority  of 
fortune  and  of  situation,  or  by  the  still  more  flattering 
superiority  of  intellectual  endowment :  by  the  force  of 
our  understanding,  by  the  extent  of  our  information,  by 
the  arts  of  persuasion,  or  the  accomplishments  of  address. 
What  but  the  idea  of  power,  pleases  the  orator,  in  the 
consciousness  of  his  eloquence ;  when  he  silences  the 
reasons  of  others  by  superior  ingenuity;  bends  to  his 
purposes  their  desires  and  passions  ;    and.  without  the 


ON    THE    DESIRES.  347 

aid  of  force  or  the  splendor  of  rank,  becomes  the  arbiter 
of  the  fate  of  nations  ? 

"  To  the  same  principle  we  may  trace,  in  part,  the 
pleasure  arising  from  the  discovery  of  general  theorems. 
Every  such  discovery  puts  us  in  possession  of  innumer- 
able particular  truths,  or  particular  facts  ;  and  gives  us 
a  ready  command  of  a  great  stock  of  knowledge,  to 
which  we  had  not  access  before.  The  desire  of  power, 
therefore,  comes,  in  the  progress  of  reason  and  experi- 
ence, to  act  as  an  auxiliary  to  our  instinctive  desire  of 
knowledge. 

"  The  idea  of  power  is,  partly  at  least,  the  foundation 
of  our  attachment  to  property.  It  is  not  enough  for  us 
to  have  the  use  of  an  object.  We  desire  to  have  it 
completely  at  our  own  disposal ;  without  being  respon- 
sible to  any  person  whatever. 

"  Avarice  is  a  particular  modification  of  the  desire  of 
power  ;  arising  from  the  various  functions  of  money  in 
a  commercial  country.  Its  influence  as  an  active  prin- 
ciple is  much  strengthened  by  habit  and  association. 

"  The  love  of  liberty  proceeds,  in  part,  from  the  same 
source  ;  from  a  desire  of  being  able  to  do  whatever  is 
agreeable  to  our  own  inclination.  Slavery  mortifies  us, 
because  it  limits  our  power. 

"  Even  the  love  of  tranquillity  and  retirement  has 
been  resolved  by  Cicero,  into  the  same  principle. 

"  The  desire  of  power  is  also,  in  some  degree,  the 
foundation  of  the  pleasure  of  virtue.  We  love  to  be  at 
liberty  to  follow  our  own  inclinations,  without  being 
subject  to  the  control  of  a  superior ;  but  this  alone  is 
not  sufficient  to  our  happiness.  When  we  are  led,  by 
vicious  habits,  or  by  the  force  of  passion,  to  do  what 
reason  disapproves,  we  are  sensible  of  a  mortifying  sub- 
jection to  the  inferior  principles  of  our  nature,  and  feel 
our  own  littleness  and  weakness.  A  sense  of  freedom 
and  independence,  elevation  of  mind,  and  the  pride  of 
virtue,  are  the  natural  sentiments  of  the  man,  who  is 
conscious  of  being  able,  at  all  times,  to  calm  the  tumults 
of  passion,  and  to  obey  the  cool  suggestions  of  duty  and 
honor." 


LECTURE    XXV. 

ON   SURPRISE,  NOVELTY,  AND   VARIETY. 

STATEMENT    OF    DIFFERENCE    BETWEEN     SURPRISE,    NOVELTY,    AND    VARIETY. 

EFFECTS  OF    SURPRISE. OF    CONTRAST. OF    THE    TWO    KINDS    OF    NOVELTY. 

OF  VARIETY. EFFECTS    OF    CHANGE. AND    THE    EXPLANATION    OF    THOSE 

EFFECTS. HOW     FAR     NOVELTY     IS     AGREEABLE. EXPLANATION      OF     THE 

PLEASURE    OF    NOVELTY. 

Wonder,  surprise,  and  admiration, — words  often  con- 
founded,— denote,  in  our  languaore,  sentiments,  which 
though  allied,  are  also  in  some  respects  distinct  from 
one  another.  What  is  new  and  singular,  excites  the 
sentiment  which,  in  strict  propriety,  is  called  wonder ; 
what  is  unexpected,  surprise ;  and  what  is  great  or 
beautiful,  admiration. 

We  wonder  at  all  the  rare  phenomena  of  nature  ; — at 
meteors,  comets,  and  eclipses  ;  at  singular  plants  and 
animals ;  and  at  every  thing,  in  short,  with  wThich  we 
have  before  been,  either  little,  or  not  at  all  acquainted  ; 
and  we  still  wonder,  though  forewarned  of  what  we  shall 
see. 

We  are  surprised  with  those  things  which  we  have 
seen  very  often,  but  which  we  little  expected  to  meet 
with  in  the  place  where  wTe  find  them.  We  are  sur- 
prised at  the  sudden  appearance  of  a  friend,  whom  we 
have  seen  a  thousand  times,  but  whom  we  did  not 
imagine  we  were  to  see  then.  We  admire  the  beauty 
of  a  plain,  or  the  vastness  of  a  mountain,  though  we  have 
seen  both  often  before  ;  and  though  nothing  appears  to 
us  in  either,  but  what  we  had  expected  with  certainty  to 
see.  Or,  to  take  it  by  illustration,  and  to  exemplify  the 
usages  of  the  three  words  in  one  object : — The  first  time 
I  see  St.  Paul's,  I  wonder  at  it;  the  hundredth  time,  I 
only  admire  it.     If  I  wake  in  a  coach,  and  find  myself  in 


ON    SURPRISE,    NOVELTY,    AND    VARIETY.  349 

St.  Paul's  Churchyard,  when  1  thought  I  was  in  Pall 
Mall,  I  am  surprised  by  the  appearance  of  the  building. 
For  the  first  time  of  seeing  such  a  building,  surprise, 
admiration,  and  wonder  might  all  be  excited  at  the  same 
moment ;  afterward,  surprise  and  admiration,  or  admira- 
tion alone. 

When  an  object  of  any  kind,  which  has  been  for  some 
time  expected  and  foreseen,  presents  itself,  whatever  be 
the  emotion  which  it  is  by  nature  fitted  to  excite,  the 
mind  must  have  been  prepared  for  it,  and  must  even  in 
some  measure  have  conceived  it  before,  because  the  idea 
of  the  object  having  been  so  long  present  to  it,  must 
have  excited  some  degree  of  the  same  emotion  which 
the  object  itself  would  excite.  The  change,  therefore, 
is  less  considerable,  and  the  passion  which  it  excites 
glides  gradually,  and  easily,  into  the  heart  without 
violence,  pain,  or  difficulty.  But  the  contrary  of  all  this 
happens  when  the  passion  is  unexpected.  If  it  be  a 
strong  passion,  the  heart  is  thrown  by  it  into  a  violent 
and  convulsive  emotion,  such  as  sometimes  occasions 
immediate  death :  sometimes  the  suddenness  of  the 
ecstasy  so  entirely  disjoints  the  frame  of  the  imagination, 
that  it  never  after  returns  to  its  former  tone  and  compo- 
sure, but  falls  either  into  a  frenzy,  or  habitual  lunacy  ; 
or  such  as  almost  always  occasions  a  momentary  loss  of 
reason,  or  of  that  attention  to  other  things  which  our 
situation  or  our  duty  requires.  From  the  apprehension 
of  these  consequences,  we  are  very  cautious  of  com- 
municating bad  news  on  a  sudden.  The  panic  terrors 
which  sometimes  seize  upon  whole  armies  in  the  field,  or 
great  cities,  when  an  enemy  is  in  the  neighborhood,  and 
which  deprive,  for  a  time,  the  most  determined  of  all 
deliberate  judgment,  are  never  excited  but  by  the  sudden 
apprehension  of  danger. 

Fear,  though  naturally  a  very  strong  passion,  never 
rises  to  such  excesses,  unless  exasperated  by  wonder, 
from  the  uncertain  nature  of  the  danger,  and  by  surprise, 
from  the  suddenness  of  the  apprehension.  There  are 
some  very  interesting  observations  on  this  subject  in  the 
tracts  of  Dr.  Adam  Smith ;  one  passage  from  which  I 
shall  take  this  opportunity  of  quoting.     "  Surprise,  is  not 


350  .  LECTURE    XXV. 

to  be  regarded  as  an  original  emotion,  of  a  species 
distinct  from  all  others.  Violent  and  sudden  change 
produced  upon  the  mind,  when  an  emotion  of  any  kind 
is  brought  suddenly  upon  it,  constitutes  the  whole  nature 
of  surprise.  But  when  not  only  a  passion,  and  a  great 
passion,  comes  all  at  once  upon  the  mind,  but  when  it 
comes  upon  it  while  the  mind  is  in  the  mood  most  unfit 
for  conceiving  it,  the  surprise  is  then  the  greatest. 
Surprises  of  joy  when  the  mind  is  sunk  into  grief,  or  of 
grief  when  it  is  elated  with  joy,  are  therefore  the  most 
insupportable.  The  change  is,  in  this  case,  the  greatest 
possible.  Not  only  a  strong  passion  is  conceived  all  at 
once ;  but  a  strong  passion,  the  direct  opposite  of  that 
which  was  before  in  possession  of  the  soul.  When  a 
load  of  sorrow  comes  down  upon  the  heart  that  is 
expanded  and  elated  with  gayety  and  joy,  it  seems  not 
only  to  damp  and  oppress  it,  but  almost  to  crush  and 
bruise  it,  as  a  real  weight  would  crush  and  bruise  the 
body.  On  the  contrary,  when,  from  an  unexpected 
change  of  fortune,  a  tide  of  gladness  seems,  if  I  may  say 
so,  to  spring  all  at  once  within  it,  when  depressed  and 
contracted  with  grief  and  sorrow,  it  feels  as  if  it  suddenly 
extended  and  heaved  up  with  violent,  irresistible  force, 
and  is  torn  with  pangs,  of  all  others  the  most  exquisite, 
and  which  almost  always  occasion  faintings,  deliriums, 
and  sometimes  instant  death.  For  it  may  be  worth 
while  to  observe,  that  though  grief  be  a  more  violent 
passion  than  joy, — as,  indeed,  all  uneasy  sensations 
seem  naturally  more  pungent  than  the  opposite  agreeable 
ones, — yet,  of  the  two,  surprises  of  joy  are  still  more 
insupportable  than  surprises  of  grief."* 

These  observations  are  very  true,  and  very  interesting ; 
but  they  would  have  been  introduced,  perhaps,  with 
greater  accuracy,  if  the  phenomena  to  which  they  refer, 
had  been  classed  under  the  head  of  contrast  rather  than 
surprise ;  for  contrast  and  surprise,  though  feelings 
which  very  much  resemble  each  other,  are  unquestion- 
ably very  separable  and  distinct.  This  is  a  case  which 
will  set  the  distinction  between  contrast  and  surprise  in 

*  Dr.  Adam  Smith's  "  History  of  Astronomy."  p.  8. 


ON    SURPRISE,    NOVELTY,    AND    VARIETY.  351 

a  strong  light : — If  I  have  long  been  suffering  from  abject 
poverty,  and  suddenly  receive  the  intelligence  of  coming 
into  possession  of  a  large  fortune,  the  unexpectedness  of 
the  news  excites  in  me  the  feeling  of  surprise ;  but 
another  distinct  feeling  is  excited  in  me,  by  the  contrast 
which  I  draw  between  my  present  fortune,  and  my  past : 
which  last  feeling,  I  should  have  had  even  though  I  had 
expected  my  riches  every  day  for  a  twelvemonth  past. 

Not  only  grief  and  joy,  but  all  the  passions,  are  more 
violent  when  opposite  extremes  succeed  each  other. 
No  resentment  is  so  keen  as  that  which  follows  the 
quarrels  of  lovers  ; — no  love  so  passionate,  as  that  which 
attends  their  reconciliation  :  when  near  relations  quarrel, 
they  are  generally  ten  times  more  vindictive  than 
ordinary  disputants.  Contrast,  produces  just  the  same 
effects  in  the  body.  Moderate  warmth,  appears  to  be 
intolerable  heat,  if  felt  after  extreme  cold.  What  is 
bitter  of  itself,  will  seem  more  bitter,  when  tasted  after 
what  is  very  sweet.  A  dirty  white,  looks  bright  and 
pure,  when  placed  by  a  jet  black.  In  short,  the  vivacity 
of  every  sentiment,  and  of  every  sensation,  seems  to  be 
greater  or  less,  in  proportion  to  the  change  made  by 
either,  upon  the  situation  of  the  mind  or  organ  ;  which 
change  must,  of  course,  be  the  greatest  when  opposite 
sensations  or  sentiments  are  contrasted,  and  succeed 
immediately  to  each  other.  Contrast  is  extremely 
favorable  to  ugliness,  or  any  natural  disadvantages, 
where  there  are  other  recommendations  to  overcome 
them.  The  first  impression,  from  appearance,  is  so 
disagreeable,  that  it  animates  all  the  pleasing  impressions 
from  merit,  by  the  mere  effect  of  contrast ;  and  therefore, 
it  matters  not  what  it  is, — whether  it  be  the  loss  of  an 
eye,  or  an  ill-contrived  set  of  features,  or  a  rustic  gait, — 
it  is  merely  an  obstacle  in  the  beginning.  If  you  have 
merit  of  any  kind  to  get  over  it,  you  will  afterward 
derive  good  from  it,  rather  than  harm  ;  and  be  extolled 
as  much  above  your  true  standard,  as  you  were  first  of 
all  depreciated  below  it.  A  great  deal  of  the  propriety 
of  common  behavior  is  regulated  by  contrast.  No  one 
could  endure  to  see  a  judge  dance,  or  a  bishop  vault  into 
his  saddle.     A  very  regulated  and  subdued  pleasantry 


352  LECTURE    XXV. 

and  relaxation,  is  all  that  can  be  allowed  to  men 
habitually  and  officially  dignified.  Contrast  in  trifling 
objects,  which  can  excite  no  high  emotion,  is  the  source 
of  humor. 

There  are  two  kinds  of  novelty ; — novelty  in  detached 
objects,  and  novelty  in  their  succession.  It  was  a  novel- 
ty to  the  Romans  to  behold  the  elephants  of  King  Pyrrhus : 
and  it  is  a  novelty  to  us  to  see  men  made  drunk  and 
mad  by  breathing  a  certain  air ;  it  is  an  order  of  events, 
to  which  we  have  never  been  accustomed.  We  have 
not  connected  together  the  phenomena  of  drunkenness, 
and  the  reception  of  an  aerial  fluid  into  the  lungs.  There 
are  also  different  degrees  of  novelty.  An  extensive 
building,  or  a  complicated  machine,  may  be  new,  after  I 
have  seen  them  three  or  four  times ;  because,  it  is  im- 
possible to  remember  all  the  parts  and  relations,  where 
they  are  so  extensive  and  intricate. 

Another  degree  of  novelty  exists  in  objects,  of  which 
we  have  some  information  at  second-hand  ;  for  descrip- 
tion, though  it  contribute  to  familiarity,  can  not  do  away 
entirely  with  the  effect  of  novelty,  when  the  object  is 
presented.  The  first  sight  of  a  lion  occasions  wonder, 
after  a  thorough  acquaintance  with  the  best  pictures  and 
statues  of  that  animal ;  and  no  man  could  see  the  great 
wall  of  Tartary  without  shuddering,  even  if  he  had  read 
a  whole  circulating  library  full  of  embassies  to,  and  trav- 
els in  China. 

We  have  the  greatest  disposition  to  find  resemblances, 
and  to  class  objects  together  which  affect  the  mind  in  a 
similar  manner ;  and  so  strong  is  this  propensity  in  our 
nature,  that  it  is  hardly  possible  we  can  see  any  thing, 
without  likening  it  to  something  we  have  seen  or  con- 
ceived before.  The  inhabitants  of  Owhyhee  had  no 
animals  larger  than  hogs,  and  when  they  saw  a  goat  on 
board  Captain  Cook's  ship  they  called  it  a  bird.  Some 
white  travelers,  seized  by  the  natives  in  the  interior  of 
Africa,  were  immediately  pronounced  to  be  a  species  of 
the  monkey ;  and  as  the  Indian  corn  had  been  lately 
very  much  plundered  by  that  animal,  they  well  nigh 
escaped  being  stoned  to  death.  It  is,  in  fact,  hardly  pos- 
sible that  we  should  see  any  thing  without  finding  a  re- 


ON    SURPRISE,    NOVELTY,    AND    VARIETY.  353 

semblance  for  it ;  and  therefore,  strictly  speaking,  nothing 
is  absolutely  new :  but  things  differ  in  the  degree  in 
which  they  resemble  our  previous  ideas.  The  love  of 
variety  seems  to  be  a  low  degree  of  the  love  of  novelty ; 
for  in  running  from  the  town  to  the  country,  and  the 
country  to  the  town,  I  seek  for  a  succession  of  objects, 
some  of  the  properties  and  qualities  of  which  I  have  for- 
gotten, and  the  revival  of  which  produces  in  my  mind  a 
low  degree  of  the  same  sort  of  excitement  which  is  al- 
ways consequent  upon  novelty.  A  person  has  been 
absent  a  whole  winter,  in  London :  the  parlor,  the 
drawing-room,  and  the  lawn,  in  the  country,  can  not  be 
said  to  be  absolutely  new,  but  still,  in  a  certain  degree, 
they  are  faded  away  from  the  memory ;  the  little  traces 
are  gone,  the  great  work  of  oblivion  is  clearly  begun,  and 
the  pleasure  we  experience  at  revisiting  the  haunts  of 
our  childhood,  is  derived  from  the  treachery  and  infir- 
mity of  our  faculties.  In  the  same  manner,  we  are  apt 
to  tire  of  our  companions.  When  we  have  seen  them 
some  time,  we  fly  to  others  for  relief,  whose  style  and 
conversation  has  become  slightly  obliterated  in  our  minds, 
and  by  the  comparative  freshness  of  which,  we  are  more 
excited. 

All  these  phenomena  of  which  I  have  been  speaking, 
the  effects  of  contrast,  variety,  and  novelty,  are  all  refer- 
able to  one  fact, — the  effects  of  change  upon  the  mind ; 
for  the  mind  is  in  a  state  of  rest,  when  the  ideas  which 
pass  through  it  are  not  very  different  from  each  other, 
nor  very  sudden  in  their  approach,  nor  very  new :  but 
these  three  sorts  of  change, — novelty,  suddenness,  and 
contrast, — rouse  it  in  a  moment  from  its  slumbers,  and 
let  loose  all  the  storms  of  passion. 

"  I  was  sitting,"  says  the  author  of  some  Letters  upon 
the  Earthquake  at  Lisbon,  "  I  was  sitting  playing  with 
my  kitten,  and  just  going  to  breakfast.  I  had  one  slipper 
on,  and  the  other  was  in  pussy's  mouth ;  when  my  at- 
tention was  roused  by  the  sudden  sound  of  thunder ;  the 
floor  heaved  under  me,  and  I  saw  the  spire  of  the  church 
of  the  Holy  Virgin  come  tumbling  to  the  ground,  like 
a  plaything  overturned  by  a  child.  I  rushed  into  the 
street,  unknowing  what  I  did,  and  where  I  went ;  and 


354  LECTURE    XXV. 

beheld  such  a  scene,  as  made  it  come  into  my  mind,  that 
the  end  of  all  things  was  at  hand,  and  that  this  was  the 
judgment-day  appointed  by  God !  By  this  time  the  air 
was  filled  with  the  screams  of  the  mangled  and  the  dy- 
ing. The  dwellings  of  men,  the  trophies  of  conquest, 
the  temples  of  God,  were  falling  all  around  me,  and  my 
escape  appeared  quite  impossible.  I  made  up  my  mind 
for  death." 

There  is  in  this  picture,  I  think,  suddenness,  contrast, 
and  novelty,  in  abundance !  Nor  is  it  inappositely  con- 
trasted with  the  calm  and  familiar  state  of  his  ideas,  pre- 
vious to  the  commencement  of  the  earthquake. 

It  is  commonly  said  and  thought  that  no  account  can 
be  given  of  these  effects  of  change  upon  our  minds, — 
that  we  are  pleased  with  novelty,  and  affected  by  sur- 
prise and  contrast,  because  such  is  the  law  of  nature ; 
and  that  no  other  reason  can  be  given.  But  surely  the 
explanation  of  it  is,  that  all  the  changes  of  matter  are  so 
apt  to  affect  us  with  pleasure  and  pain,  that,  on  this  ac- 
count, we  watch  its  changes.  If  no  object  that  you 
could  present  to  a  child,  could  give  that  child  either 
pleasure  or  pain,  1  submit  to  every  body  here  present, 
whether  it  seems  very  probable  that  the  child  would  care 
one  farthing  about  the  changes  of  objects :  but  some  ob- 
jects are  sweet,  and  some  are  disgusting, — like  physic  ; 
and  some  smooth,  and  some  prick  him  ;  and  therefore,  as 
every  object  presented  to  him  affects  his  interests,  he  gains 
rapidly  those  habits  of  attending  to  the  changes  of  objects, 
which,  because  the  origin  of  it  lies  hidden  in  the  remot- 
est infancy,  we  indolently  pronounce  to  be  an  ultimate 
fact,  and  incapable  of  explanation.  A  child  is  originally 
excited  by  new  objects,  and  by  objects  suddenly  present- 
ed to  his  notice,  from  the  hope  of  the  pleasures,  or  fear 
of  the  pains,  it  may  produce.  For  the  very  same  reason, 
he  is  struck  by  contrast.  He  has  an  interest  in  study- 
ing the  qualities  of  every  thing  with  the  greatest  quick- 
ness. The  mind  travels  with  more  difficulty  from  a 
sheep  to  an  elephant,  than  from  a  sheep  to  a  lamb.  The 
difficulty  of  mastering  and  arranging  the  new  ideas,  from 
their  great  dissimilarity  with  those  which  preceded  them, 
is  that  excitement  of  mind  which  contrast  produces  ;  and 


ON    SURPRISE,    NOVELTY,    AND    VARIETY.  355 

variety  is  the  same  thing,  in  a  less  degree.  If  matter 
could  do  us  neither  good  nor  harm,  we  should  see  Gor- 
gons,  Chimaeras,  and  Minotaurs,  starting  up  under  our 
feet,  with  as  much  indifference  as  we  think  about  them; 
and  the  only  reason  why  surprise,  novelty,  and  contrast, 
in  our  conceptions,  are  not  as  strong  as  in  our  percep- 
tions, is,  that  they  have  little  to  do  with  pleasure  or  pain. 
No  man  had  more  new,  surprising,  and  contrasted  ideas, 
than  Ariosto ;  but  nobody  ever  heard  of  his  surprising 
himself  into  swoons  by  his  own  conceptions :  a  mouse 
running  across  the  room  has  probably  startled  him  much 
more  than  all  his  own  beautiful  extravagances  have  ever 
been  able  to  do. 

We  have,  in  the  same  manner,  a  pleasure  in  contem- 
plating the  resemblances  of  objects,  and  their  differ- 
ences :  hence,  method  and  classification  in  science ;  the 
mode  of  arguing  by  analogy ;  and  the  rules  laid  down 
for  the  regulation  of  common  life.  It  seems  to  be  most 
probable  that  all  this  comes  from  the  strong  motive 
which  pain  and  pleasure  communicate  to  us,  for  ob- 
serving the  resemblances  of  matter;  for  a  child  that 
loves  sugar,  observes  the  appearances  of  sugar,  and 
every  thing  white  is  a  resemblance,  which  is  apt  to  ex- 
cite his  appetite  :  perhaps  he  takes  up  a  piece  of  salt,  and 
the  pain  which  this  mistake  inflicts,  excites  him  to  fresh 
observation,  and  makes  him  more  attentive  in  his  classi- 
fications. If  he  got  nothing  by  observing  whether  objects 
were  alike  or  unlike,  he  would  never  observe  or  classify 
at  all.  I  beg  leave  to  observe,  that  I  am  only  speaking 
of  the  origin  of  contrast,  novelty,  discernment,  and 
variety ;  for  after  the  mind  has  once  got  the  notion,  that 
new  things  are  to  be  watched,  on  account  of  their 
consequences,  the  middle  term,  according  to  the  usual 
process  of  association,  is  soon  omitted,  and  novelty  is 
remarked  on  account  of  itself;  just  as,  at  last,  money  is 
loved  for  itself.  And  this  is  another  reason  why  the 
cause  of  the  feeling  is  forgotten,  and  it  is  supposed  to  be 
original. 

If  this  be  the  history  of  our  attention  to  change,  the 
next  question  is,  how  far  is  change  agreeable  ?  In  the 
first  -place,  we  must  remember  that  novelty  excites  the 


356  LECTURE    XXV. 

mind,  and  that  when  the  mind  is  in  a  state  of  excite- 
ment, any  passion  which  falls  upon  it  becomes  stronger 
than  it  otherwise  would  be.  Whoever  was  frightened 
by  a  storm  at  sea,  would  be  more  frightened  if  he  were 
at  sea  for  the  first  time,  because  the  novelty  exciting  his 
mind,  would  come  to  the  aid  of  the  passion  of  fear. 
Whoever  saw  a  beautiful  spectacle  on  the  stage,  would 
feel  the  pleasure  rendered  much  greater  by  the  excite- 
ment of  novelty.  There  is  also  a  pleasure  in  the  excite- 
ment of  mere  novelty,  though  perhaps  not  a  very  great 
one.  No  one  would  go  out  of  his  way  to  see  a  rat,  but 
we  should  have  some  pleasure  in  seeing  a  white  rat:  the 
novelty  of  the  color  would  in  some  measure  overcome 
the  disgust  which  that  animal  occasions.  A  Spaniard 
dressed  as  an  Englishman  would  excite  no  curiosity ; — 
if  he  passed  the  streets  in  the  dress  of  his  native  country, 
we  should  turn  aside  to  look  upon  him.  It  is  not  easy 
to  find  instances,  where  we  receive  much  pleasure  from 
mere  novelty.  What  we  call  the  pleasures  of  novelty, 
are  generally  the  pleasures  of  something  else.  A  new 
cap,  or  a  new  gown,  is  the  pleasure  of  figure,  and  the 
pleasure  of  color,  or  the  pleasure  of  fashion,  the  associa- 
tion with  elegance  and  gayety :  the  pleasure  of  novelty 
forms  but  a  very  small  part  of  it. 

In  contemplating  the  falls  of  Niagara,  it  would  be  the 
sublimity  and  the  terror  of  the  scene  that  we  should 
call  by  the  general  name  of  novelty  :  innumerable  ob- 
jects, quite  as  new,  would  be  infinitely  less  striking,  from 
their  inferior  sublimity.  In  the  rage  for  traveling,  the 
object  is  not  so  much  to  gratify  the  love  of  novelty  as 
the  love  of  excellence ;  not  merely  to  see  new  things, 
but  new  grand  things,  new  beautiful  things,  new  excel- 
lence, in  which  the  grand  and  beautiful  will,  I  should 
think,  upon  reflection,  be  found  to  have  a  much  greater 
effect,  than  the  new. 

This  appears  very  much  against  the  power  of  novelty  ; 
that  whenever  its  effects  seem  to  be  very  great,  it  is 
always  found  in  conjunction  with  other  principles ; 
whenever  it  is  found  alone,  its  influence  is  very  incon- 
siderable. 

Nearly  the  same  observations  may  be  made  of  sur- 


ON    SURPRISE,    NOVELTY,    AND    VARIETY.  357 

prise.  Surprise  increases  pleasure  and  pain ;  and  in 
itself  is  slightly  agreeable.  If  any  one  were  to  tell  me 
that  in  taking  a  walk  in  the  country,  I  should  find  a  little 
seal,  or  a  silver  thimble,  lying  in  a  pathway  where  it  had 
been  left,  nothing  could  be  more  indifferent  to  me  than 
to  look  upon  it ;  but  if  I  were  to  light  upon  such  objects 
all  of  a  sudden,  I  might  derive  a  faint  gleam  of  satisfac- 
tion from  the  mere  surprise.  It  is  only  in  such  little 
objects  that  the  question  can  be  tried  ;  for  when  surprise 
comes  to  be  mingled  with  great  passions,  it  is  very  diffi- 
cult to  know  what  to  give  to  surprise,  what  to  the  feel- 
ings with  which  it  is  conjoined.  A  man  thinks,  and 
hears,  that  his  son  is  killed  in  battle,  and  all  of  a  sudden 
his  son  enters  into  the  room  where  he  is  sitting,  and  the 
father  drops  down  in  a  swoon ;  but  if  a  maid-servant, 
whom  he  believed  to  have  been  dead  three  years  before, 
had  entered  his  room,  no  such  violent  symptoms  would 
have  taken  place,  though  the  mere  surprise,  the  unex- 
pectedness of  the  vision,  would  have  been  quite  as  great : 
therefore,  it  seems  fair  to  say,  that  the  effect  is  to  be 
attributed  in  a  greater  measure  to  the  conflicting  pas- 
sions within,  than  to  the  mere  surprise ;  for,  all  surprise 
out  of  the  question,  and  the  father  prepared,  months 
before,  to  meet  the  son  whom  he  had  supposed  to  be 
dead,  and  aware  of  the  very  hour  and  moment  of  the 
meeting,  yet  still  the  trial  would  be  very  dreadful  and 
severe.  But,  all-important  affection  out  of  the  question, 
the  mere  surprise  would  not  be  of  much  consequence ; 
for  if  a  pointer-dog  were  to  enter  the  room,  whose  death 
had  been  considered  as  certain,  the  effect  produced 
would  be  quite  inconsiderable ;  and  yet  in  this  case  the 
mere  unexpectedness  is  quite  as  great  as  in  any  of  the 
others.  But  this  is  curious,  that  suddenness  and  admira- 
tion, or  novelty  and  admiration  in  their  combined  state, 
produce  effects  infinitely  more  powerful  than  their  sep- 
arate effects,  added  together,  could  ever  be  supposed  to 
produce.  It  is  impossible  to  look  upon  York  Minster 
for  the  first  time,  without  feeling  a  degree  of  transport ; 
but  these  transports  are  certainly  not  felt  by  the  mayor 
or  aldermen  of  York,  who  see  it  every  week, — though 
even  their  callousness  must  be  sometimes  excited  bv  it. 


358  LECTURE    XXV. 

The  only  circumstance  in  which  they  differ  from  a 
stranger  is,  in  wanting  the  feeling  of  novelty;  which 
feeling  by  itself  I  have  before  shown  to  be  very  insig- 
nificant ;  but,  add  it  to  admiration,  and  the  whole  effect 
is  very  striking.  Mere  surprise,  by  itself,  produces  no 
very  stupendous  consequences ;  the  separate  power  of 
novelty  is  not  very  strong ;  mere  contrast  can  very  well 
be  endured.  Admiration,  devoid  of  all  these,  is  com- 
paratively weak  ;  but  when  a  new  object  is  suddenly 
presented  to  our  view,  contrasted  with  all  other  objects, 
and  in  itself  a  subject  of  admiration,  it  is  then  that  the 
strongest  sensations  which  the  mind  is  capable  of  feeling 
are  always  produced. 

The  same,  or  nearly  the  same,  observations  might  be 
gone  over  respecting  contrast  and  variety :  and  the 
result  of  the  inquiry  is,  that,  in  all  these  considerable 
changes  of  our  ideas,  there  is  a  pleasure,  arising  from 
the  excitement  which  they  produce  ;  and  that  the  desire 
of  occasioning  that  excitement,  is  very  often  a  stimulus 
to  action.  It  is  notorious,  however,  in  the  instance  of 
novelty,  that  it  is  more  a  stimulus  with  the  young,  than 
with  the  old.  It  will  be  curious  to  ascertain  what  are 
the  causes  of  this  remarkable  difference  between  the 
different  periods  of  life.  Experience  has  taught  to  old 
men  the  danger  of  change,  and  the  difficulty  of  fore- 
seeing its  effects.  They  become  lazy  in  the  exertion  of 
their  faculties,  and  dislike  that  strain  and  excitement 
of  mind,  which  new  things  occasion  :  whereas,  excite- 
ment is  agreeable  to  the  young  ;  they  have  quite  a  pas- 
sion for  it.  Whatever  men  have  done  long,  it  is  painful 
for  them  not  to  do  ;  to  whatever  they  have  done  long,  or 
seen  long,  they  attach  the  very  agreeable  notion  of  self: 
"  I  have  been  accustomed  to  do  so  ;" — "  this  was  the  case 
in  my  time  ;" — "  I  have  always  seen  this,  or  that," — and 
such-like  references  to  self;  which  always  establish  a 
pleasing  connection  of  ideas.  So  that  fear,  indolence, 
reason,  and  habit,  are  constantly  at  work  to  destroy  the 
power  of  novelty ;  and  the  love  of  what  is  customary, 
becomes  as  much  the  characteristic  of  one  age,  as  the 
love  of  what  is  new  is  that  of  another :  and  the  reason 
why  the  balance  is  commonly  against  novelty,  is,  that  so 


ON    SURPRISE;,    NOVELTY,    AND    VARIETY.  359 

much  more  power  is  lodged  in  the  hands  of  the  old,  than 
of  the  young.  Let  thirty-five  be  a  middle  period,  divid- 
ing mankind  into  two  classes.  The  elder  of  these  two 
classes  has  infinitely  a  greater  share  of  power  and  author- 
ity than  the  other :  in  the  youngest  even  of  this  upper 
class,  novelty  has  lost  a  great  deal  of  its  power,  and  habit 
has  begun  to  fix  its  empire.  The  young  object  and  com- 
plain, and  think  they  can  improve ;  but  they  are  com- 
pelled to  wait  so  long  before  the  power  comes  to  them, 
that  they  are  familiarized  by  habit,  though  not,  perhaps, 
convinced  by  reason.  So  it  happens,  and  happens,  per- 
haps, very  fortunately  upon  the  whole,  that  the  power  is 
lodged  in  the  hands  of  those  who  have  constitutionally 
an  aversion  to  innovation  ; — more  fortunately,  certainly, 
than  if  it  were  lodged  in  the  hands  of  those  who  had  a 
love  of  it :  but  the  best  of  all  would  be,  that  we  should 
know  the  bias  of  every  period  of  life,  guard  against  it, 
and  decide  upon  questions,  not  as  they  are  new  or  old, 
but  as  they  are  good  or  bad.  The  pleasure  occasioned 
by  the  excitement  of  these  emotions,  produces,  as  may 
be  easily  seen,  the  most  important  effects  upon  human 
happiness.  Novelty  is  the  foundation  of  the  love  of 
knowledge ;  which  is  nothing  but  the  desire  of  useful 
novelty.  The  love  of  surprise  and  wonder,  have  been 
the  parents  of  poetical  fiction,  and  of  all  those  errors 
which  held  such  deep  hold  upon  the  mind  of  man ; — 
witchcraft,  demonology,  astrology,  and  the  manifold  in- 
stances of  superstition,  which  depended  upon  the  sup- 
posed agency  of  invisible  spirit.  Whoever  tells  any 
thing  wonderful,  contributes  to  the  pleasure  of  those  who 
hear  him,  and  therefore  enjoys  a  temporary  pre-emi- 
nence ;  but,  as  the  imagination  is  soon  warmed  up  to 
this  pitch,  the  next  stage  of  narration  must  bring  with  it 
a  new  stage  of  astonishment :  and  in  this  way  evidence 
is  handed  down  to  succeeding  ages,  till  it  requires  the 
greatest  efforts  of  labor,  and  force  of  acuteness,  to  gain 
a  glimpse  at  the  real  truth.  Mr.  Knight  has  some  very 
sensible  remarks  on  the  bad  effects  which  the  love  of 
novelty  produces  upon  taste,  which  to  me  are  new, 
though  very  probably  they  may  not  be  so  to  my  hear- 
ers : — "  The  style  of  Virgil  and  Horace  in  poetry,  and 


360  LECTURE    XXV. 

that  of  Caesar  and  Cicero  in  prose,  continued  to  be  ad- 
mired and  applauded  through  all  the  succeeding  ages  of 
Roman  eloquence,  as  the  true  standards  of  taste  and 
eloquence  in  writing ;  yet  no  one  ever  attempted  to  imi- 
tate them,  though  there  is  no  reason  to  believe  but  that 
the  praises  bestowed  upon  them  were  perfectly  sincere  ; 
but  all  writers  seek  for  applause, — and  applause  is  only 
to  be  gained  by  novelty.  The  style  of  Cicero  and  Vir- 
gil was  new  in  the  Latin  language  when  they  wrote ; 
but  in  the  age  of  Seneca  and  Lucan  it  was  no  longer  so ; 
and  though  it  still  imposed  by  the  stamp  of  authority,  it 
could  not  even  please  without  it ;  so  that  living  writers 
whose  names  depended  upon  their  works,  and  not  their 
works  upon  their  names,  were  obliged  to  seek  for  other 
means  of  exciting  public  attention,  and  acquiring  public 
approbation.  In  the  succeeding  age,  these  writers  be- 
came cold  and  insipid ;  and  the  refinements  of  Statius 
and  Tacitus  were  successfully  employed  to  gratify  the 
restless  pruriency  of  innovation.  In  all  other  ages  and 
countries,  where  letters  have  been  successfully  culti- 
vated, the  progress  has  been  nearly  the  same ;  and  in 
none  more  distinctly  than  in  our  own :  from  Swift  and 
Addison,  to  Johnson,  Burke,  and  Gibbon,  is  a  transition 
precisely  similar  to  that  from  Caesar  and  Cicero,  to  Sen- 
eca and  Tacitus.  In  the  imitative  arts,  from  the  effects 
of  novelty,  the  progress  of  corruption  has  been  nearly 
the  same."*  Mr.  Knight  adds  afterward, — and  with 
perfect  justice, — that  though  the  passion  for  novelty  has 
been  the  principal  means  of  corrupting  taste,  it  has  also 
been  a  principal  means  of  polishing  and  perfecting  it. 

I  have  said  a  great  deal  upon  the  subject  of  novelty, 
and  I  do  not  know  how  I  can  better  conclude  than  with 
the  termination  of  an  Essay  on  the  same  subject,  which 
Dr.  Johnson  has  pronounced  to  be  one  of  the  best- writ- 
ten pieces  in  the  English  language.  "  To  add  no  more/' 
says  the  writer,  "  is  not  this  fondness  for  novelty,  which 
makes  us  out  of  conceit  with  all  we  already  have,  a  con- 
vincing proof  of  a  future  state  ?  Either  man  was  made 
in  vain,  or  this  is  not  the  only  world  he  was  made  for : 

*  Knight,  on  Taste, 


ON    SURPRISE,    NOVELTY,    AND    VARIETY.  361 

for  there  can  not  be  a  greater  instance  of  vanity  than  that, 
to  which  a  man  is  liable  to  be  deluded,  from  the  cradle 
to  the  grave,  with  fleeting  shadows  of  happiness ;  his 
pleasures  die  in  the  possession,  and  fresh  enjoyments  do 
not  rise  fast  enough  to  fill  his  mind  with  satisfaction. 
When  I  see  persons  sick  of  themselves  any  longer  than 
they  are  called  away  by  something  that  is  of  force 
enough  to  chain  down  the  present  thought ;  when  I  see 
them  hurry  from  one  place  to  another,  and  then  back 
again ;  continually  shifting  postures,  and  placing  life  in 
all  the  different  lights  they  can  think  of, — surely,  say  I 
to  myself,  life  is  vain,  and  the  man  beyond  expression 
stupid  or  prejudiced,  who,  from  the  vanity  of  life  can  not 
gather,  that  he  is  designed  for  immortality." 

Q 


LECTURE    XXVI 


ON  HABIT. 

It  appears  to  be  the  law  of  our  nature,  that  our  past 
thoughts  and  actions  should  exercise  a  very  material 
influence  upon  those  which  are  to  come.  Whatever 
ideas  and  whatever  actions  have  been  joined  together, 
have,  ever  after,  a  disposition  to  unite,  exactly  in  pro- 
portion to  the  frequency  of  their  previous  union  ;  till  at 
last,  the  adhesion  becomes  so  strong,  that  it  frequently 
overcomes  the  earliest  and  the  most  powerful  passions  of 
our  nature.  This  power  of  habit  extends  to  the  brute 
creation ;  and  appears  to  have  some  effect  upon  or- 
ganized matter,  as  I  shall  hereafter  endeavor  to  show. 
Why  we  should  be  thus  affected  by  habit,  I  presume 
can  not  be  explained.  We  might  have  been  so  con- 
stituted as  not  to  have  had  the  smallest  disposition  to 
do  again,  what  we  had  been  constantly  doing  for  ten 
years  before ;  we  might  have  found  it  as  difficult  to  pur- 
sue a  track  of  thought  to  which  we  had  been  accustomed, 
as  it  is  to  strike  into  one  entirely  new :  the  fact  is  the 
reverse, — and  that  is  all  we  can  say ;  when  we  get  there, 
we  arrive  at  the  end  of  all  human  reasoning.  Every 
one  must  be  familiar  with  the  effects  of  habit.  A  walk 
upon  the  quarter-deck,  though  intolerably  confined,  be- 
comes so  agreeable  by  custom,  that  a  sailor,  in  his  walk 
on  shore,  very  often  confines  himself  within  the  same 
bounds.  "  I  knew  a  man,"  says  Lord  Karnes,  "  who 
had  relinquished  the  sea,  for  a  country  life  :  in  the  cor- 
ner of  his  garden  he  reared  an  artificial  mount,  with  a 
level  summit,  resembling  most  accurately  a  quarter-deck, 
not  only  in  shape,  but  in  size  ;  and  here  he  generally 
walked.     In  Minorca,  Governor  Kane  made  an  excel- 


ON    HABIT.  363 

lent  road,  the  whole  length  of  the  island,  and  yet  the  in- 
habitants adhered  to  the  old  road,  though  not  only 
longer,  but  extremely  bad.  The  merchants  of  Bristol 
have  an  excellent  and  commodious  Exchange,  but  they 
always  meet  in  the  street.  There  is  hardly  any  con- 
venience of  life,  or  any  notion  of  utility  or  beauty,  which 
may  not  be  entirely  changed  by  habit ;  it  is  needless  to 
multiply  the  instances." 

When  ideas  are  united  together  in  consequence  of 
their  having  been  previously  joined  by  some  accident, 
we  call  it  association.  There  are  various  kinds  of  asso- 
ciations ;  and  it  may,  perhaps,  render  what  I  am  going 
to  say  more  clear,  if  I  recapitulate  a  few  of  the  different 
kinds  of  association.  One  idea  may  be  associated  to 
another  idea ;  the  lowing  of  a  cow  may,  in  my  mind,  be 
constantly  united  with  the  idea  of  a  green  field.  2dly. 
An  idea  and  a  feeling  may  be  constantly  associated  to- 
gether. Peter,  the  Wild  Boy,  as  Lord  Monboddo  in- 
forms us,  could  never  bear  the  sight  of  an  apothecary ; 
it  threw  him  into  the  most  violent  fits  of  rage :  a  prac- 
titioner had  once  given  him  so  very  nauseous  a  draught, 
that  he  never  afterward  forgot  it,  and  could  with  the 
utmost  difficulty  be  restrained  from  flying  at  any  of  the 
faculty  that  came  within  his  reach. 

In  the  like  manner,  joy,  or  any  other  passion,  may 
suggest  ideas.  A  good  father,  when  he  is  visiting  any 
beautiful  country,  or  partaking  of  any  amusement,  may 
wish  that  his  wife  and  children  were  there  to  partici- 
pate in  his  satisfaction.  Here  the  feeling  of  joy,  intro- 
duces the  idea  of  his  family ;  and  this,  in  a  benevolent 
mind,  may  grow  into  an  association. 

A  state  of  body  may  be  associated  with  an  idea.  A 
man  who  had  been  very  often  to  the  high  northern 
latitudes,  might  very  possibly  associate  the  idea  of 
whales  and  bears  with  the  feeling  of  cold  ;  or  an  East 
Indian  might  associate  a  state  of  heat  with  the  idea  of 
his  white  cotton  dress,  or  any  of  the  peculiar  habits  or 
objects  of  his  country. 

A  state  of  body  might  be  associated  with  a  passion ; 
cold  might  always  produce  joy  in  a  Norwegian,  if  it 
reminded  him  of  the  scenes  where  he  had  passed  a  happy 


364  LECTURE    XXVI. 

infancy ;  or  heat  would  produce  unhappiness  in  a  man 
who  had  been  confined  three  or  four  years  in  the  prisons 
of  Seringapatam,  and  who  had  suffered  dreadfully  in 
such  a  situation  from  the  ardor  of  the  climate.  Now, 
when  all  these  conjunctions  of  ideas,  feelings,  and  states 
of  body,  are  confined  merely  to  the  intellect,  they  pass 
under  the  name  of  association  :  but  whenever  we  begin 
to  act  in  a  customary  manner,  whenever  any  outward 
observable  action  becomes  a  member  of  the  series,  there, 
we  begin  to  use  the  word  habit. 

If  a  person,  by  accident,  had  lived  with  a  great  num- 
ber of  snuff-takers,  and  had  been  accustomed  to  perceive 
that  in  any  little  pause  of  conversation,  they  all  took 
out  their  snuff-boxes,  the  silence  would  immediately  pro- 
duce the  idea  of  snuff, — and  this  we  should  call  associa- 
tion of  ideas  ;  but  if  he  were  a  snuff-taker  himself,  the 
silence  would  probably  animate  him  to  a  pinch, — and 
this  we  should  call  habit.  Whatever  passes  in  the  mind, 
only  in  consequence  of  custom  or  repetition,  is  associa- 
tion :  where  there  is  outward  action,  it  is  habit.  There 
is  no  use  whatever  in  the  two  names :  they  are,  on  the 
contrary,  an  evil ;  because  they  multiply  names  without 
multiplying  ideas ;  but  the  reason  is,  that  the  effects  of 
habit  have  long  been  observed,  because  every  one 
notices  actions.  It  is  not  above  a  century  since  asso- 
ciation has  been  thought  of,  or  much  attended  to,  be- 
cause it  is  very  difficult  to  trace  and  to  describe  the 
operations  of  the  mind. 

Habits  may  be  divided  into  active  and  passive  ; — those 
things  which  we  do  by  an  act  of  the  will,  and  those 
things  which  we  suffer  by  the  agency  of  some  external 
power.  I  begin  with  the  active  habits  ;  and,  after  stat- 
ing a  few  of  the  most  familiar  of  them,  I  will  shortly 
analyze  the  examples,  in  order  to  show  that  they  are 
merely  referable  to  association.  It  may  be  as  well,  per- 
haps, to  give  a  specimen  of  the  life  of  a  man  whose  ex- 
istence was,  at  last,  entirely  dependent  upon  the  habits 
he  had  contracted :  it  is  a  fair  picture  of  the  dominion 
which  habit  establishes  over  us,  at  the  close  of  life. 
"  The  professed  rule  of  Mr.  Hobbes,"  says  Dr.  White 
Kennet,  in  his  Memoirs  of  the  Cavendish  Family,  "  was 


ON    HABIT.  365 

to  dedicate  the  morning  to  exercise,  and  the  evening  to 
study.  At  his  first  rising,  he  walked  out,  and  climbed 
up  a  hill  :  if  the  weather  was  not  dry,  he  made  a  point 
of  fatiguing  himself  within  doors,  so  as  to  perspire ;  re- 
marking constantly,  that  an  old  man  had  more  moisture 
than  heat ;  and  by  such  motion,  heat  was  to  be  ac- 
quired, and  moisture  expelled.  After  this,  the  philoso- 
pher took  a  very  comfortable  breakfast,  and  then  went 
round  the  lodgings  to  wait  upon  the  earl,  the  countess, 
the  children,  and  any  considerable  strangers ;  paying 
some  short  addresses  to  all  of  them.  He  kept  these 
rounds  till  about  twelve  o'clock,  when  he  had  a  little 
dinner  provided  for  him,  which  he  eat  always  by  him- 
self, without  ceremony.  Soon  after  dinner,  he  retired 
to  his  study,  and  had  his  candle,  with  ten  or  twelve  pipes 
of  tobacco,  laid  by  him ;  then,  shutting  the  door,  he  fell 
to  smoking,  thinking,  and  writing,  for  several  hours.  He 
could  never  endure  to  be  left  in  an  empty  house  ;  when- 
ever the  earl  removed,  he  would  go  along  with  him,  even 
to  his  last  stage,  from  Chatsworth  to  Hardwick.  This 
was  the  constant  tenor  of  his  life,  from  which  he  never 
varied,  no,  not  a  moment,  nor  an  atom." 

This  is  the  picture  of  a  man  whose  life  appears  to 
have  been  entirely  regulated  by  the  past;  who  did  a 
thing  because  he  had  done  it;  who,  so  far  as  bodily 
actions  were  concerned,  could  hardly  be  said  to  have 
any  fresh  motives  ;  but  was  impelled  by  one  regular  set 
of  volitions,  constantly  recurring  at  fixed  periods.  Now, 
take  any  one  of  his  habits,  and  examine  its  progress ;  it 
will  afford  a  natural  history  of  this  law  of  the  mind,  and 
will  show  what  circumstances  in  that  law  are  most 
worthy  of  observation. 

He  smoked :  how  did  this  begin  ?  It  might  have 
begun  any  how.  He  wTas  staying,  perhaps,  at  some 
house  where  smoking  was  in  fashion,  and  began  to  smoke 
out  of  compliance  with  the  humors  of  other  persons.  At 
first,  he  thought  it  unpleasant ;  and  as  all  the  expirations 
and  inspirations  were  new,  and  difficult,  it  required  con- 
siderable attention  ;  and  at  the  close  of  the  evening  he 
could  have  distinctly  recollected,  if  he  had  tried  to  do  so, 
that  his  mind  had  been  employed  in  thinking  how  he 


366  LECTURE    XXVI. 

was  to  manage  and  manoeuver  the  pipe.  The  practice 
goes  on ;  the  disgust  vanishes ;  much  less  attention  is 
necessary  to  smoke  well :  in  a  few  days  the  association 
is  formed  ;  the  moment  the  cloth  is  taken  away  after 
supper,  the  idea  of  smoking  occurs  :  if  any  accident 
happen  to  prevent  it,  a  slight  pain  is  felt  in  consequence  ; 
it  seems  as  if  things  did  not  go  on  in  their  regular  track, 
and  some  confusion  had  crept  into  the  arrangements  of 
the  evening.  As  the  association  goes  on,  it  gathers 
strength  from  the  circumstances  connected  with  it ; 
from  the  mirth  and  conversation  with  which  it  is  joined  : 
at  last,  after  a  lapse  of  years,  we  see  the  philosopher  of 
Malmsbury  advanced  from  one,  to  one  dozen  of  pipes  ; 
so  perfect  in  all  the  tactics  of  a  smoker,  so  dexterous  in 
all  the  manual  of  his  dirty  recreation,  that  he  would  fill, 
light,  and  smoke  out  his  pipe,  without  the  slightest 
remembrance  of  what  he  had  been  doing,  or  the  most 
minute  interruption  to  any  immoral,  irreligious,  or  un- 
mathematical  track  of  thought,  in  which  he  happened  to 
be  engaged :  but  we  must  not  forget,  that  though  his 
amusement  occupied  him  so  little,  and  was  passed  over 
with  such  a  small  share  of  his  attention,  the  want  of  it 
would  have  occupied  him  so  much,  that  he  could  have 
done  nothing  without  it ;  all  his  speculations  would  have 
been  at  an  end,  and  without  his  twelve  pipes  he  might 
have  been  a  friend  to  devotion,  to  freedom,  or  any  thing 
else  which,  in  the  customary  tenor  of  his  thoughts,  he 
certainly  was  not.  The  phenomena  observable  here  are, 
that  the  physical  taste  lost  its  effect;  that  which  was 
nauseous,  ceased  to  be  so.  Next,  the  habit  began  with 
a  considerable  difficulty  of  bodily  action,  and  with  a  full 
attention  of  the  mind  to  what  was  passing.  It  was  not 
easy  to  smoke,  and  the  philosopher  was  compelled  to  be 
careful,  in  order  to  do  it  properly  ;  but  as  the  habit 
increased,  he  indulged  in  it  with  such  little  attention  of 
mind  or  exertion  of  body,  that  he  did  it  without  knowing 
he  did  it.  Lastly,  any  interruption  of  the  habit  would 
have  occasioned  to  him  the  greatest  uneasiness.  As 
these  are  the  circumstances  observable  in  all  habits, 
they  will  each  require  and  deserve  some  consideration. 
1st.   It  appears  to  be  a  general  law,  that  habit  diminishes 


ON    HABIT.  367 

physical  sensibility  :  whatever  affects  any  organ  of  the 
body,  affects  it  less  by  repetition.  Brandy  is  begun 
in  tea-spoons ;  but  the  effect  is  so  soon  lost,  that  a  more 
generous  and  expanded  vehicle  is  very  soon  had  recourse 
to  :  the  same  heat  to  the  stomach,  and  the  same  intoxica- 
tion to  the  head,  can  not  be  produced  by  the  same 
quantity  of  the  liquor.  So  with  perfumes  ;  wear  scented 
powder,  and  in  a  month  you  will  cease  to  perceive  it. 
Habituate  yourself  to  cold  or  to  heat,  and  they  cease  to 
affect  you.  Eat  Cayenne  pepper,  and  you  will  find  it 
perpetually  necessary  to  increase  the  quantity,  in  order 
to  produce  the  effect.  "  My  perfumed  doublet,"  says 
Montaigne,  "  gratifies  my  own  smelling  at  first,  as  well  as 
that  of  others ;  but  after  I  have  worn  it  three  or  four 
days  together,  I  no  more  perceive  it :  but  it  is  yet  more 
strange,  that  custom,  notwithstanding  the  long  inter- 
missions, and  intervals,  should  yet  have  the  power  to 
unite  and  establish  the  effect  of  its  impressions  upon  our 
senses,  as  is  manifest  in  those  who  live  near  to  steeples 
and  the  frequent  noise  of  bells.  I  myself  lie  at  home  in 
a  tower,  where  every  morning  and  evening  a  very  great 
bell  rings  out  the  Ave  Maria,  the  noise  of  which  shakes 
my  very  tower,  and  at  first  seemed  insupportable  to  me  ; 
but  having  now  a  good  while  kept  that  lodging,  I  am  so 
used  to  it,  that  I  hear  it  without  any  manner  of  offense, 
and  often  without  awaking  at  it.  Plato  reprehends  a 
boy  for  playing  at  some  childish  game  :  '  Thou  reprovest 
me,'  says  the  boy, '  for  a  very  little  thing.'  '  Custom/ 
replied  Plato,  'is  no  little  thing.'  And  he  was  in  the 
right ;  for  I  find  that  our  greatest  vices  derive  their  first 
propensity  from  our  most  tender  infancy,  and  that  our 
principal  education  depends  upon  the  nurse."* 

In  all  these  cases,  the  sensibility  of  the  different  parts 
of  the  body  is  diminished  by  repetition ;  and  the  same 
substances  applied  to  them,  can  not  produce  the  same 
effects.  The  habit,  it  should  be  observed,  does  not  act 
by  individual  substances,  but  often  by  classes :  if  you 
have  accustomed  yourself  to  opium,  all  soporific  drugs 
have  less  effect  upon  you ;  if  to  one  species  of  wine,  you 

*  Montaigne,  vol.  i.  p.  131. 


368  LECTURE    XXVI. 

are  capable  of  bearing  a  greater  quantity  of  any  other  : 
the  sensibility  of  the  body  is  not  only  diminished  toward 
that  object,  but  toward  many  others  similar  to  it ; 
chiefly,  however,  toward  the  object  upon  which  the 
habit  was  founded.  There  are  some  facts,  which  do  not, 
at  the  first  view,  appear  to  fall  in  with  this  doctrine.  A 
taster  of  wines  increases  in  his  power  of  discrimination. 
A  man  accustomed  to  judge  of  the  fineness  of  cloths  by 
feeling  them,  feels  them  with  more  accuracy  from  prac- 
tice. A  blind  man,  from  mere  habit,  improves  so 
astonishingly  in  the  power  of  touch,  that  his  nicety,  in 
this  respect,  is  hardly  to  be  credited  by  a  person  en- 
dowed with  sight.  Whence  comes  it,  if  habit  lessens 
bodily  sensibility,  that  habit  increases  it  in  these  in- 
stances ?  My  answer  is,  that  it  is  not  habit  which  in- 
creases the  sensibility  in  these  instances  ;  that  the  sensi- 
bility is  actually  diminished ;  and  better  judgments 
made,  with  impaired  sensibility,  and  increased  attention, 
than  others  make  with  more  sensibility  and  less  atten- 
tion. The  man  who  has  been  rubbing  cloths  all  his  life- 
time between  his  finger  and  thumb,  has  most  probably 
not  such  an  acute  feeling  as  I  have,  who  have  made  no 
such  use  of  my  finger  and  thumb ;  but  he  has  a  fixed  and 
lively  attention  to  what  feeling  he  has,  and  he  knows  the 
quality  of  cloth,  of  which  that  feeling  is  the  indication. 
In  all  feeling,  where  attention  is  not  concerned,  he  is 
just  like  every  one  else  :  heat  affects  him  less  if  he  has 
been  exposed  to  it  frequently  ;  so  does  cold :  in  his  own 
particular  art  he  does  not  deviate  from  the  general  law 
of  diminished  sensibility ;  but  counteracts  that  law,  by 
his  great  increase  of  attention.  This  rule  of  the  diminu- 
tion of  sensibility  by  habit,  includes,  of  course,  pleasure 
as  well  as  pain :  nothing  which  we  eat  or  drink  con- 
stantly, can  remain  either  pleasant  or  painful ;  repetition 
infallibly  diminishes  both  the  pleasure  and  the  pain.  If 
the  common  part  of  our  diet  is  not  originally  insipid, — as 
bread  or  water, — it  becomes  uninteresting,  and  no  notice 
is  taken  of  the  flavor, — as  is  the  case  with  salt.  Tastes 
that  are  luscious,  repetition  not  only  destroys,  but  con- 
verts into  disgusts.  The  habits  of  mankind  are  not  so 
frequently  formed  upon  these  tastes,  as  they  are  upon 


UN    HABIT.  369 

others,  slightly  disagreeable  at  their  origin  ;  as  coffee, 
olives,  port  wine,  and  tobacco  :  none  of  these  are  agreea- 
ble in  their  origin.  The  reason  of  this  is,  perhaps,  rather 
moral  than  physical.  In  the  luscious  taste  you  set  off 
from  a  pleasure,  which  becomes  every  day  less  and  less, 
and  at  last  terminates  in  a  disgust.  This  is  a  good 
reason  why  you  should  stop.  In  the  case  of  the  olives 
and  the  coffee,  you  set  off  with  a  slight  disgust,  and  go 
on  to  a  negative  state,  or  slight  pleasure  :  and  the  reason 
why  you  encounter  the  first  disgust,  is  fashion,  or 
health  ;  or  some  use  which  you  propose  to  derive  from 
the  disgustful  object  :  thus,  coffee  clears  the  head,  olives 
provoke  to  the  use  of  wine,  and  so  on.  Hitherto  I  have 
endeavored  to  show  the  effect  of  habit  on  those  pleasures 
and  pains  which  have  the  body  for  their  cause  ;  and  that 
effect  appears  to  be,  a  diminution  of  every  kind  of 
sensibility.  The  next  subject  for  consideration  will  be, 
whether  habit  weakens  our  passive  impressions,  where 
the  body  is  not  concerned  ;  that  is,  whether  because  we 
have  felt  a  passion,  we  are  less  likely  to  feel  it  again; 
that  there  is  a  less  proneness  to  that  kind  of  sensibility, 
than  there  was  before  ?  The  general  rule  is  in  the 
affirmative, — that  habit  strengthens  our  active  determina- 
tions, while  it  weakens  our  passive  impressions  :  this,  I 
say,  is  the  general  rule ;  I  suppose  it  is  the  true  one  ; 
but  as  I  can  not  reconcile  innumerable  cases  to  that  rule, 
I  shall  very  frankly,  but  at  the  same  time  in  all  humility, 
avow  my  dissent.  If  this  rule  were  true,  it  would 
follow  that  a  man  is  less  liable  to  feel  the  passion  of 
anger  again,  in  proportion  as  he  has  felt  it  often  before. 
This  man  is  a  very  irritable  man  ;  why  so  ?  because  we 
have  never  seen  him  in  a  passion ; — but  here  is  another 
man,  whom  you  may  trust  with  the  utmost  impunity  ; 
we  have  beheld  him  in  such  violent  and  such  frequent 
fits  of  anger,  that  we  are  convinced  he  is  the  most 
peaceable  man  in  the  world.  Habit  weakens  passive 
impressions,  and  previous  irritation  must  therefore  be 
the  best  security  for  the  absence  of  all  irritable  feeling. 
If  this  rule  were  true,  the  best  method  of  teaching  a  child 
good-temper,  would  be  to  irritate  him  as  much  as  possi- 
ble.    He  might  be  cured  of  avarice  by  being  taught  to 

a* 


370  LECTURE    XXVI. 

hoard  ;  rendered  benevolent  by  being  indulged  in  malice ; 
and  cured  of  every  vice,  to  the  practice  of  which  he  had 
been  diligently  trained. 

Take  fear ;  there  is  a  certain  degree,  at  least,  of  that 
passion,  which  does  not  diminish  the  passive  impression  ; 
he  who  has  been  once  heartily  frightened  by  a  great  dog 
flying  at  him,  is  not  likely,  for  any  thing  I  can  see,  to  be 
the  less  alarmed  if  he  is  attacked  by  a  bull  the  following 
day, — but  rather  the  more.  To  have  slept  in  a  house 
which  caught  fire, — to  have  run  a  narrow  risk  for  life  by 
the  fall  of  a  horse, — would  not  improve  the  confidence 
of  a  horseman,  nor  add  to  the  soundness  of  sleep.  Fear 
seems  to  increase  the  liability  to  fear,  rather  than  to  di- 
minish it.  What  has  led  to  a  contrary  opinion,  seems  to 
be  this, — that  we  become  less  afraid  of  the  same  object, 
or  same  class  of  objects.  The  first  time  1  make  a  voy- 
age to  the  West  Indies,  I  am  afraid  ;  the  tenth  time,  I  am 
not ; — why  ?  not  because  my  sensibility  is  blunted,  but 
because  my  reason  is  instructed  :  I  perceive  there  are 
much  greater  resources  in  skill  and  science,  than  I  im- 
agined ;  that  the  ship  can  ride  with  safety  over  those 
monstrous  waves  which  at  first  bid  fair  to  destroy ;  that 
an  unctuous  and  weather-beaten  personage,  by  turning  a 
wheel  near  him,  can  guide  the  prodigious  animal,  in 
whose  inside  I  am  sailing,  with  the  most  unerring  pre- 
cision. It  is  not  that  I  meet  the  same  danger  better,  but 
that  I  have  found  out  it  is  a  much  less  danger.  In  al- 
most all  the  instances  where  men  encounter  those  perils 
to  which  they  are  accustomed,  with  greater  resolution 
than  at  first,  it  is  because  they  have  found  out  new  re- 
sources and  methods,  by  which  they  may  be  opposed ; 
or.  because  experience  convinces  them,  the  danger  itself, 
independently  of  all  methods  of  obviating  it,  was  not  so 
great  as  they  had  begun  with  supposing.  Compassion  is 
in  favor  of  the  rule  ;  for  it  is  always  worn  out  where  it  is 
frequently  exercised.  It  is  quite  impossible  that  a  sur- 
geon can  feel  much  at  an  operation, — that  a  bookseller 
can  have  any  very  strong  compassion  for  authors, — or 
that  an  overseer  of  the  poor,  who  lives  in  the  midst  of 
misery,  can  care  for  it  in  a  very  lively  manner.  This  is 
true  in  such  extreme  cases;  but  then,  again,  a  certain 


ON    HABIT.  371 

degree  of  exercise  rather  increases  the  passion  than 
diminishes  it ;  for  a  man  who  had  carefully  stifled  every 
emotion  of  compassion  for  half  his  life,  would  be  ten 
times  more  unfeeling  than  he  who  had  been  over-stimu- 
lated by  the  too  frequent  contemplation  of  wretchedness. 
So  that  this  fact,  respecting  compassion,  contradicts  the 
rule,  as  much  as  the  other  confirms  it.  Envy  is  perpet- 
ually and  uniformly  increased  by  habit ;  so  is  jealousy  : 
by  all  that  we  have  indulged  in  these  two  feelings,  ex- 
actly in  the  same  proportion  are  we  likely  to  be  affected 
by  them  again.  So  that  I  really  can  not  comprehend 
how  the  rule  can  be  true,  stated  in  so  very  general  a 
manner.  Some  passions  are  increased  by  habit,  others 
are  decreased  by  habit ;  others  increased  up  to  a  certain 
point,  then  decreased.  So  that,  in  fact,  there  is  no  gen- 
eral rule  about  the  matter ;  and  the  effect  of  habit  must 
be  learned  in  each  particular  passion.  It  seems  as  if  the 
rule  had  been  taken  from  the  organs  of  the  body,  and 
applied  to  the  passions  of  the  mind.  Mr.  Stewart's  prin- 
cipal inferences  are  all  taken  from  the  body ;  nor  does 
he  seem  to  doubt,  but  that  they  both  follow  the  same 
law : — 

"  I  shall  have  occasion  afterward  to  show,  in  treating 
of  our  moral  powers,  that  experience  diminishes  the  in- 
fluence of  passive  impressions  on  the  mind,  but  strength- 
ens our  active  principles.  A  course  of  debauchery  dead- 
ens the  sense  of  pleasure,  but  increases  the  desire  of 
gratification.  An  immoderate  use  of  strong  liquors  de- 
stroys the  sensibility  of  the  palate,  but  strengthens  the 
habit  of  intemperance.  The  enjoyments  we  derive  from 
any  favorite  pursuit,  gradually  decay  as  we  advance  in 
years  :  and  yet  we  continue  to  prosecute  our  favorite 
pursuits  with  increasing  steadiness  and  vigor. 

"  On  these  two  laws  of  our  nature  is  founded  our  ca- 
pacity of  moral  improvement.  In  proportion  as  we  are 
accustomed  to  obey  our  sense  of  duty,  the  influence  of 
the  temptation  to  vice  is  diminished ;  while  at  the  same 
time,  our  habit  of  virtuous  conduct  is  confirmed.  How 
many  passive  impressions,  for  instance,  must  be  over- 
come, before  the  virtue  of  beneficence  can  exert  itself 
uniformly   and  habitually!     How  many  circumstances 


372  LECTURE    XXVI. 

are  there  in  the  distresses  of  others,  which  have  a  ten- 
dency to  alienate  our  hearts  from  them,  and  which 
prompt  us  to  withdraw  from  the  sight  of  the  miserable  ! 
The  impressions  we  receive  from  these,  are  unfavorable 
to  virtue :  their  force,  however,  every  day  diminishes ; 
and  it  may,  perhaps,  by  perseverance,  be  wholly  destroy- 
ed. It  is  thus  that  the  character  of  the  beneficent  man 
is  formed.  The  passive  impressions  which  he  felt  origi- 
nally, and  which  counteracted  his  sense  of  duty,  have 
lost  their  influence,  and  a  habit  of  beneficence  is  become 
a  part  of  his  nature."* 

It  is  clear  from  this  passage,  that  Mr.  Stewart  con- 
ceives the  same  rule  to  obtain  respecting  the  feelings  of 
the  body,  and  the  feelings  of  the  mind.  The  doctrine 
itself,  he  avows  himself  to  have  taken  from  Butler :  it 
may  be  found  in  the  121st  page  of  his  "  Analogy.'  It 
may  very  likely  be  true ;  and  in  dissenting  from  such 
truly  great  authorities,  I  am  only  stating  the  nature  and 
extent  of  my  own  ignorance  :  but  it  is  better  to  do  this 
candidly  at  once,  than  to  subscribe  to  opinions,  which, 
after  all  the  attention  I  am  capable  of  giving  to  them, 
appear  to  me  to  be  wrong. 

I  remarked  in  my  picture  of  Hobbes  and  his  smoking, 
the  pain  the  philosopher  would  have  experienced  if  any 
circumstance  had  interrupted  his  habit.  A  very  curious 
part  of  habit, — that  though  we  feel  no  pleasure  in  doing 
the  thing,  we  feel  a  great  pain  from  not  doing  it :  and 
the  pain  is  not  infrequently  felt,  before  the  cause  is  as- 
certained ;  you  don't  feel  as  you  have  been  accustomed 
to  feel ;  and,  after  some  time,  perceive  that  somebody  is 
missing,  whom  you  have  been  accustomed  to  see,  or 
somebody  or  something  present,  which  you  have  not  been 
accustomed  to  see, — that  you  have  left  some  insignifi- 
cant thing  behind  you,  which  you  always  carried  with 
you :  the  habitual  current  of  your  thoughts  and  actions 
has  been  interrupted,  and  you  are  awakened  by  the  pain 
of  that  interruption,  to  examine  into  the  cause. 

Habit  uniformly  and  constantly  strengthens  all  our 
active  exertions :    whatever  we  do  often,  we  become 

*  Stewart's  Elements,  p.  525. 


ON    HABIT.  373 

more  and  more  apt  to  do.  A  snuff-taker  begins  with  a 
pinch  of  snuff  per  day,  and  ends  with  a  pound  or  two 
every  month.  Swearing  begins  in  anger;  it  ends  by 
mingling  itself  with  ordinary  conversation.  Such-like 
instances  are  of  too  common  notoriety  to  need  that  they 
be  adduced ;  but,  as  I  before  observed,  at  the  very  time 
that  the  tendency  to  do  the  thing  is  every  day  increas- 
ing, the  pleasure  resulting  from  it  is,  by  the  blunted  sen- 
sibility of  the  bodily  organ,  diminished  ;  and  the  desire  is 
irresistible,  though  the  gratification  is  nothing.  There 
is  rather  an  entertaining  example  of  this  in  Fielding's 
"  Life  of  Jonathan  Wild,"  in  that  scene  where  he  is 
represented  as  playing  at  cards  with  the  Count,  a  pro- 
fessed gambler.  "Such,"  says  Mr.  Fielding,  "was  the 
power  of  habit  over  the  minds  of  these  illustrious  per- 
sons, that  Mr.  Wild  could  not  keep  his  hands  out  of  the 
Count's  pockets,  though  he  knew  they  were  empty  ;  nor 
could  the  Count  abstain  from  palming  a  card,  though  he 
was  well  aware  Mr.  Wild  had  no  money  to  pay  him." 

No  reason  that  I  know  of,  can  be  given,  why  the 
habit  of  having  done  a  thing,  should  increase  the  ten- 
dency to  do  it :  all  reason  stops  at  this  point, — it  is  not 
possible  to  explain  it.  The  pain  annexed  to  the  inter- 
ruption of  the  habit  is  the  means  by  which  obedience  to 
the  law  is  secured.  Nature  is  too  good  a  legislator  to 
pass  any  act  without  annexing  a  smart  penalty  to  the 
violation  of  it. 

There  remains  to  notice  the  very  little  attention  of 
mind,  and  the  very  little  bodily  exertion,  with  which  all 
habitual  actions  are  performed.  A  boy,  at  his  first  be- 
ginning to  learn  arithmetic,  adds  together  a  column  of 
figures  with  the  greatest  difficulty,  and  with  the  greatest 
uncertainty :  an  expert  arithmetician  adds  up  the  long- 
est sum  with  the  most  unerring  precision,  and  with  as 
much  rapidity  almost  as  is  required  to  advance  his  hand 
from  the  bottom  to  the  top  of  the  page. 

Montaigne  says,  in  his  chapter  on  "  Custom  and  Law," 
"  I  saw  the  other  day,  at  my  own  house,  a  little  fellow 
who  came  to  show  himself  for  money,  a  native  of  Nantes, 
born  without  arms,  who  has  so  well  taught  his  feet  to 
perform  the  services  his  hands  should  have  done  him, 


374  LECTURE    XXVI. 

that  indeed  they  have  half  forgot  their  natural  office,  and 
the  use  for  which  they  were  designed ;  the  fellow,  too, 
calls  them  his  hands,  and  we  may  allow  him  to  do  so, 
for  with  them  he  cuts  any  thing,  charges  and  discharges 
a  pistol,  threads  a  needle,  sews,  writes,  and  puts  off  his 
hat,  combs  his  head,  plays  at  cards  and  dice,  and  all  this 
writh  as  much  dexterity  as  any  other  could  do  who  had 
more  and  more  proper  limbs  to  assist  him ;  and  the 
money  I  gave  him,  he  carried  away  in  his  foot,  as  we  do 
in  our  hand.  I  have  seen  another,  who,  being  yet  a 
boy,  flourished  a  two-handed  sword,  and  (if  I  may  so 
say)  handled  a  halberd,  with  the  mere  motions  and  writh- 
ings  of  his  neck  and  shoulders,  for  want  of  hands ;  toss- 
ed them  into  the  air,  and  caught  them  again ;  darted  a 
dagger  ;  and  cracked  a  whip,  as  well  as  any  coachman 
in  France."* 

Every  one,  except  Dr.  Crotch,  must  remember  the 
difficulty  with  which  they  first  learned  music.  The 
correspondence  between  the  note  on  the  piano-forte  and 
the  note  in  the  book  was  the  first  thing  to  be  ascertain- 
ed ;  then,  that  note  is  to  be  struck  with  a  particular 
finger,  with  a  particular  degree  of  velocity ;  and  if  she 
should  sing  at  the  same  time,  all  these  are  to  be  accom- 
panied with  certain  inflections  of  the  voice.  The  diffi- 
culty with  which  all  this  is  done,  the  blunders  which  are 
made,  and  the  slowness  of  the  progress  that  is  made  at 
first,  there  can  be  no  occasion  I  should  describe,  as  there 
are  so  many  here  who  must  have  felt  it.  At  last,  such 
is  the  astonishing  facility  acquired  by  habit,  that  there 
are  many  persons  who  will  sit  down  to  a  glee  which 
they  have  never  seen  before,  play  the  bass  with  one 
hand,  the  treble  with  the  other,  and  sing  the  third  part ; 
that  is,  read  three  different  languages,  and  perform 
three  different  sets  of  actions  at  the  same  time :  and 
this,  with  such  little  effort  of  faculty  or  of  finger,  that  they 
shall  have  plenty  of  leisure  to  observe  who  comes  in 
and  goes  out ;  who  is  dressed  ill,  who  well ;  and  to  pursue 
the  usual  train  of  thought,  which  passes  in  our  minds 
on  such  occasions :  and  though  it  be  absolutely  neces- 
sary that  each  musical  note,  and  each  key  of  the  piano- 

*  Montaigne,  vol.  i.  p.  133. 


ON    HABIT.  375 

forte,  must  have  been  thought  of  by  such  a  musician 
during  the  performance,  they  have  passed  through  the 
mind  with  so  much  ease  and  rapidity,  that  it  is  impos- 
sible, or  at  least  exceedingly  difficult,  to  recall  any  of 
them.  The  reason  of  this  astonishing  facility,  is  partly 
to  be  explained  by  bodily,  partly  by  mental  causes.  It 
proceeds  from  the  strengthened  association  between  the 
sign,  and  the  thing  signified  :  we  read  music  with  greater 
ease,  and,  the  very  instant  we  look  at  the  note,  and  the 
musical  line  on  which  it  is  placed,  know  immediately  to 
what  part  of  the  piano-forte  the  finger  is  to  be  carried. 
The  other  cause  is  merely  a  bodily  cause  :  the  actions 
of  the  fingers  become  associated  together ;  and  one  fin- 
ger having  followed  the  other  in  a  certain  direction,  fol- 
lows it  ever  after  with  much  more  ease.  To  shake  on 
the  piano-forte  is  extremely  difficult  to  beginners.  How- 
ever desirous  any  one  may  be  of  moving  these  two 
fingers  rapidly,  the  muscles  obey  the  decision  of  the  will 
will  with  extreme  difficulty;  but  when  the  respective 
motions  of  the  two  fingers  are  completely  associated,  so 
slight  a  determination  of  the  will  produces  the  desired 
effect,  that  it  becomes  difficult  to  recollect,  the  very  mo- 
ment after,  that  we  have  thought  any  thing  about  the 
matter.  Just  so  in  learning  to  walk,  or  in  grown-up 
persons  learning  to  skate  ;  it  requires  a  specific  resolu- 
tion to  put  one  leg  before  another.  A  skater  stands 
tottering  and  trembling  in  his  slippery  career ;  and  when 
he  has  resolved  which  leg  he  will  move  the  next,  is  obey- 
ed by  that  leg  in  a  very  awkward,  reluctant,  and  mu- 
tinous manner, — the  very  leg  which,  when  it  has  ac- 
quired a  great  number  of  associated  strains  and  postures, 
is  to  gain  its  master  deathless  reputation  as  a  flying 
Mercury,  and  render  him  the  envy  and  glory  of  the 
Serpentine. 

It  is  impossible  not  to  perceive  in  this  analysis,  which 
I  have  gone  through,  of  the  nature  of  habit,  that  power- 
ful effect  which  it  must  exercise  upon  human  happiness, 
by  connecting  the  future  with  the  present,  and  exposing 
us  to  do  again  that  which  we  have  already  done.  If 
we  wish  to  know  who  is  the  most  degraded,  and  the 
most  wretched,  of  human  beings ; — if  it  be  any  object 


376  LECTURE    XXVI. 

of  curiosity  in  moral  science,  to  gage  the  dimensions 
of  wretchedness,  and  to  see  how  deep  the  miseries  of 
man  can  reach  ; — if  this  be  any  object  of  curiosity,  look 
for  a  man  who  has  practiced  a  vice  so  long,  that  he 
curses  it  and  clings  to  it ;  that  he  pursues  it,  because 
he  feels  a  great  law  of  his  nature  driving  him  on  toward 
it ;  but,  reaching  it,  knows  that  it  will  gnaw  his  heart, 
and  tear  his  vitals,  and  make  him  roll  himself  in  the  dust 
with  anguish.  Say  every  thing  for  vice  which  you  can 
say, — magnify  any  pleasure  as  much  as  you  please,  but 
don't  believe  you  c